T-Mobile Promises 'Nationwide' 5G in 2020 With New Spectrum

T-Mobile says that it will use its new low-band spectrum holdings to help it deploy a nationwide 5G footprint in the US in 2020.

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.)

"We'll expect all this to begin in 2019 and target 2020 for a full nationwide rollout," writes Ray in a blog. (See Qualcomm: First 5G Smartphones Coming Mid-2019.)

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'.)

Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on
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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

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kq4ym 5/13/2017 | 2:34:55 PM
Re: Is there much point doing 5G on 600MHz though? Your explanation seems entirely correct as to why T-Moible may be heading down the road getting some traction "from 5G by using a mixture of mmWave, mid-band, and low-band spectrum. But it will be interesting to watch as they depart from the competitors' plans of using the band spectrum.
DanJones 5/4/2017 | 2:14:54 PM
Re: Is there much point doing 5G on 600MHz though? Right, and the WRC has 600MHz as one of its 5G low band options right?
Gabriel Brown 5/4/2017 | 5:02:28 AM
Re: Is there much point doing 5G on 600MHz though? You need low band for many of the 5G use-cases, even if it's ultimately used primarily for signalling, or extended range uplink, or IoT, rather than throughput. The mobile operator business is first and foremost about coverage -- so, yes, there is a point to doing this.

With mullti-connectivity, you could also use low-band LTE for control-plane, and migrate LTE to 5G over time, if you don't have fresh low band spectrum available right now.

In terms of end-user throughput, you are right that it is determined primarily by the size of the channel, so you wouldn't expect huge gains on LTE. Even so there's a quite a bit "under the hood" that may improve the user-experience (e.g. in terms of latency, connection set-up times).
DanJones 5/3/2017 | 2:44:41 PM
Re: Like this CEO I think late 2018 *may* be a little optimistic on their part, we'll see....
alex.xing 5/3/2017 | 2:32:50 PM
Re: Like this CEO Looking forward the MOBILE 5G service from AT&T. Hope it will be more than a wireless CPE placed inside/outside the room :) 
DanJones 5/3/2017 | 1:37:04 PM
Re: Like this CEO Well AT&T said it's targeting initial mobile 5G services for late 2018, Verizon has said 2020.
alex.xing 5/3/2017 | 4:42:21 AM
Like this CEO It may be bombastic from T-Mobile CEO, however the 5G business case (fixed wireless DSL) from other operators is really not a promising one, it use 3.5GHz or mm wave band, no idea how could they get profit and till when...

DanJones 5/2/2017 | 8:07:44 PM
Re: Is there much point doing 5G on 600MHz though? Which will still be useful for the end user of course.
DanJones 5/2/2017 | 8:07:43 PM
Re: Is there much point doing 5G on 600MHz though? Which will still be useful for the end user of course.
schlettie 5/2/2017 | 6:49:24 PM
Re: Is there much point doing 5G on 600MHz though? That is true.  LTE Advanced is asymptotically approaching Shannon's Limit in terms of spectral efficiency, and there is nothing magic about 5G New Radio in comparison.  Capacity increases in 5G as seen by a particular end-user device will mainly come from bigger (bonded) channels and more beamforming.
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