T-Mobile US Inc. CEO John Legere and CTO Neville Ray reiterated plans to deploy mobile 5G in the US Tuesday, but added a new wrinkle: The operator will use part of 600MHz low-band spectrum it just won at auction to deploy the next-generation wireless technology, starting in 2019. (See T-Mobile Says 600MHz Takes It Head-to-Head With 'Duopoly' and T-Mobile, Dish & Comcast Big Winners in $19.8B 600MHz Auction.)
T-Mobile's planned use of 600MHz for mobile 5G is different from its chief rivals, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). Both of them have so far talked about using high-band millimeter (mmWave) frequencies -- 28Ghz and 39GHz -- to initially deploy fixed 5G, as a cable alternative, in 2018 and beyond. (See AT&T & Straight Path: What's It All Mean for US 5G? and AT&T Expects Mobile 5G Services in 'Late 2018'.)
CTO Ray says that T-Mobile wants "breadth and coverage" from 5G by using a mixture of mmWave, mid-band, and low-band spectrum. "In addition to the 600 MHz band, we have 200 MHz of spectrum in the 28/39 GHz bands covering nearly 100 million people in major metropolitan areas and an impressive volume of mid-band spectrum to deploy 5G in as well," Ray notes.
Most carriers, however, have so far talked about a lower band for 5G being in the "sub-6GHz" range, with 3.5GHz so far becoming the default in Asia and Europe. Former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler did suggest in August 2015, though, that 600MHz could be used as "a wide-area 5G coverage layer" in the US. (See Is This the 5G You're Looking For?)
"You can deploy 5G on ANY frequency, and in the future, all spectrum will be 5G spectrum," T-Mobile's Ray argues in his blog.
This appears to suggest that T-Mobile could use disparate bonded radio channels to get the 100MHz spectrum swathes needed to deploy its initial mobile 5G services in the US.
T-Mobile, by the way, has previously said several times that it is targeting the 2020 timeframe for 5G. Mobile 5G is "a 2020 story," Ray said back in September 2016. (See T-Mobile CTO: 5G Gets Exciting in 2020.)
T-Mobile appears to have reiterated its 5G plans in reaction to AT&T deciding to market coming LTE-Advanced updates on its network as a "5G evolution" last week. CEO John Legere derided this as "fake 5G" in a video released Tuesday. (See Surprise! AT&T Markets 4G Advances as '5G Evolution'.)
See Legere's typically bombastic take on T-Mobile's 5G announcement below:
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading