5G and Beyond

T-Mobile to Launch Lowband 5G Earlier Than Previously Scheduled

T-Mobile said it plans to turn on "nationwide" 5G services on its 600MHz spectrum earlier than previously expected. The company had planned to switch on the network in early 2020, but today the operator said it will turn on the network "before the end of this year."

That launch window would put T-Mobile well ahead of AT&T, which has recently promised to launch 5G on its unspecified lowband spectrum (probably 700MHz) by the middle of 2020.

T-Mobile said its forthcoming OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren smartphone would support its 600MHz 5G network.

And what can customers expect from T-Mobile's 5G service on its 600MHz spectrum? T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said in April that the operator would provide speeds of 60 Mbit/s to 70 Mbit/s using 5G in that band. He said that would be roughly double the speeds the operator currently provides on its 600MHz spectrum with its 4G LTE network.

To be clear, T-Mobile's lowband 5G network won't provide speeds anywhere near the 1Gbit/s peak speeds that Verizon is providing with its 5G network over millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum. Nor are those speeds nearly as fast as the roughly 500Mbit/s peak speeds that T-Mobile is already providing on a mmWave 5G network the operator launched this summer in parts of six cities.

However, the key element of T-Mobile's launch of 5G in its 600MHz spectrum is that it will reach across major portions of the US population. That's because transmissions in 600MHz spectrum can cover large geographic distances, while transmissions in mmWave spectrum can't go more than a few thousand feet. The trade-off, though, is capacity and speeds: mmWave 5G can handle enormous amounts of data, while lowband 5G can't.

Also of note: T-Mobile has often described its 600MHz 5G launch as a "nationwide" offering. But the operator has said that its nationwide offering will only cover around 200 million Americans -- there are almost 330 million total people who live in the country. Thus, "nationwide" really means coverage in most urban and suburban areas of the US, but not the rural areas.

However, other operators including AT&T and Verizon, employ similar caveats to their "nationwide" coverage claims.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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