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T-Mobile begins putting 5G into its fixed wireless Internet service

T-Mobile has begun to shift its fledgling fixed wireless Internet service from 4G to 5G, a move that appears set to dramatically boost customers' speeds. Perhaps more importantly, it could also signal the impending commercial launch of T-Mobile's Home Internet service, which it is currently testing in locations around the country.

"T-Mobile Home Internet is currently in an LTE pilot," a T-Mobile spokesperson wrote in response to questions from Light Reading. "However, we're preparing to launch 5G Home Internet, and as we work toward that, some customers may receive 4G and 5G compatible devices and may experience 5G speeds."

The statement follows an article from The T-Mo Report outlining T-Mobile's efforts to deploy 5G-capable fixed wireless Internet services and equipment, including Nokia-built receivers that sit inside customers' homes. The article cited one Reddit user in Minnesota who reported obtaining 5G speeds up to 130Mbit/s in part by accessing T-Mobile's new 600MHz spectrum holdings.

However, T-Mobile may well be shooting for much higher speeds for its Home Internet service. The operator has touted peak speeds up to 1Gbit/s on its new 5G network via the combination of advanced technologies like carrier aggregation and spectrum bands ranging from 2.5GHz to 600MHz.

Indeed, T-Mobile's CEO Mike Sievert recently hinted that the operator would soon upgrade its 4G-powered Home Internet service with 5G-capable customer premises equipment (CPE). He said the operator would launch the offering in "early" 2021.

"We've been marketing 4G LTE as a pilot all through 2020 really learning a lot," Sievert said late last year at an investor event, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. "We're trying to soak in the knowledge of how to perform in a market that's tangentially very familiar to us, but different than our core market. And we've learned a tremendous amount about how to delight customers, and serve them, and make them happy and solve their problems. So that when the CPEs arrive for 5G, we're going to start to scale it up."

Sievert continued: "I'm really excited about this [fixed wireless service]. We have a great team focused on it. We've put some of our best people in charge of this area. And it's something that our business plan is very focused on, both in suburban and rural areas."

T-Mobile has promised to eventually launch fixed wireless Internet service to 10 million households by 2024.

Verizon's 5G FWA waffling

Interestingly, just as T-Mobile appears to be ramping up its 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) plans, Verizon may well be backing away from its own 5G FWA efforts.

As reported by Telecompetitor, Verizon's Ronan Dunne argued that the operator's fixed wireless Internet goals might be accomplished through a mix of 4G and 5G technologies. Verizon has maintained that it wants to cover up to 30 million households with fixed wireless Internet services within the next five to seven years.

Verizon initially introduced its 5G Home fixed wireless Internet service in 2018. The operator late last year expanded the service following upgrades that included the addition of new, high-powered chipsets and antennas from Qualcomm.

Separately, Verizon also launched a 4G fixed wireless Internet service across parts of 48 states in July 2020.

Verizon's 4G-powered service offers speeds up to 25Mbit/s while its 5G-powered service – which works in short-range, millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum – offers speeds around 300Mbit/s.

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

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