Verizon and T-Mobile spent millions of dollars on Super Bowl-related marketing campaigns this weekend that essentially boiled down to a series of snide, 5G-related jabs at each other. Sprint and AT&T, meanwhile, sat on the sidelines.
At the heart of the squabble between Verizon and T-Mobile is the spectrum they're using for 5G. Verizon bought billions of dollars of millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum from the likes of XO and Straight Path, and is now in the process of using that highband spectrum to build a 5G network in parts of some downtown areas around the US. T-Mobile, meanwhile, spent almost $8 billion on 600MHz spectrum during the FCC's 2017 incentive auction, and is now in the process of using that lowband spectrum to build a nationwide 5G network.
Due to physics of signal propagation in these kinds of spectrum bands, Verizon's 5G can't cover much territory but it can carry lots of data, while T-Mobile's 5G can cover large geographic areas but isn't much faster than 4G.
Here's Verizon's big 5G-themed message this weekend:
And here is T-Mobile's big Super Bowl ad spot:
Both carriers sought to score the last word after the game, with T-Mobile CEO John Legere penning a long blog post that in part blasts Verizon's 5G for "sad, spotty coverage in random parts of some areas of some cities." It's worth noting that T-Mobile also operates a similar mmWave 5G network across seven US cities -- just like Verizon.
Meantime, Verizon made sure to point out that its 4G network in some cases is faster than T-Mobile's 5G network. And it's worth noting that Verizon plans to eventually expand its own 5G nationwide using its own lowband spectrum holdings -- just like T-Mobile.
If you're judging the quarrel purely by YouTube views then T-Mobile won, according to a Variety tally of the top Super Bowl ads.
But of course the real winner is Fox, which broadcast the Super Bowl and therefore reaped the profits from sky-high advertising fees levied equally against both Verizon and T-Mobile.