T-Mobile to offer 5G in 2019; nationwide coverage in 2020

T-Mobile is the latest wireless carrier to jump the gun on standardized 5G (IMT 2020 standards won’t be completed by ITU-R WP5 till end of 2020 as we’ve noted many, many times).  It’s anticipated that 5G networks will provide faster speeds and much lower latency than the current 4G LTE  and LTE Advanced networks and will be able to connect in excess of 100 billion devices.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a video post on Tuesday, May 2nd that the “un-carrier” plans to begin rolling out a fifth-generation network (“5G”) in the United States in 2019. T-Mobile’s 5G network will be facilitated by the spectrum it bought in the FCC’s reverse spectrum auction last month.+

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+ FCC Auction explained: TV broadcasters sold their spectrum which was then bid for by broadband wireless network operators in a later auction held this April. T-Mobile got the largest share of those airwaves as we described in this post).

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The No. 3 wireless carrier in the U.S. will use a portion of the low-band spectrum it said it was buying for $8 billion in the aforementioned FCC auction.  About half of the company’s 600 MHz spectrum will be used for LTE and the other half will be used for its nationwide 5G network. However, Legere also said that T-Mobile will use other spectrum bands like 28 GHz and 39 GHz and mid-band spectrum for 5G as well.  CTO Neville Ray noted in a blog post (see below) that the company has about 200 MHz of spectrum in the 28/39 GHz bands covering nearly 100 million PoPs and some mid-band spectrum.  “5G will ultimately use all spectrum bands,” Legere added.

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray wrote in a blog post that T-Mobile will begin building a 5G network in 2019 and have a nationwide network in 2020.  Mr. Ray noted that T-Mobile’s 2019 launch will coincide with when 3GPP-certified chipsets and other 5G equipment is likely to become available. “As 5G standards are defined, chipsets are delivered, and equipment comes to market, we expect to be 3GPP certified and be able to deploy 5G on clean spectrum,” Ray said.

Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc have been conducting 5G trials that incorporate high-band airwaves called millimeter wave spectrum to deliver what they hope will be an ultra-fast broadband service that could help them better compete with cable providers. While millimeter wave technology offers faster speeds, it cannot cover big geographic areas.

Verizon is testing such a service with equipment maker Ericsson in 11 markets in the U.S. and expects a commercial launch as early as 2018. Meanwhile, AT&T said earlier this year that it had successfully completed tests with Nokia [NOKI.UL] that delivered its streaming video service DirecTV Now over a 5G connection using millimeter wave technology.

While AT&T and Verizon have talked about faster broadband in denser urban areas as the first stage of 5G, T-Mobile wants to try to differentiate its efforts by emphasizing broader coverage that can support connected devices in the years to come, said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics.

“Everyone is getting into 5G,” Entner said. “The angle they’re using to get in is slightly different.”  T-Mobile’s 5G network could be used for applications such as tracking everything from packages in delivery trucks to children, according to Entner.

Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc have been conducting 5G trials that incorporate high-band airwaves called millimeter wave spectrum to deliver what they hope will be an ultra-fast broadband service that could help them better compete with cable providers. While millimeter wave technology offers faster speeds, it cannot cover big geographic areas.

Verizon is testing such a service with equipment maker Ericsson in 11 markets in the U.S. and expects a commercial launch as early as 2018. Meanwhile, AT&T said earlier this year that it had successfully completed tests with Nokia [NOKI.UL] that delivered its streaming video service DirecTV Now over a 5G connection using millimeter wave technology.

While AT&T and Verizon have talked about faster broadband in denser urban areas as the first stage of 5G, T-Mobile wants to try to differentiate its efforts by emphasizing broader coverage that can support connected devices in the years to come, said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics.

“Everyone is getting into 5G,” Entner said. “The angle they’re using to get in is slightly different.” T-Mobile’s 5G network could be used for applications such as tracking everything from packages in delivery trucks to children, according to Entner.  “I’m a little bit skeptical of how quickly this happens,” he added.

In an interview with Reuters, T-Mobile’s Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray said the company was pragmatic in its launch goals. “It’s not like we’re going to have a 5G network tomorrow,” he said. But “we want to start talking about…the applications that 5G can bring.”

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What T-Mobile won’t be doing is building a 5G network for fixed wireless service in millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum like the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands to deliver video and broadband connectivity.  Legere mocked both AT&T and Verizon for their plans to launch a fixed 5G service in mmWave spectrum, saying they want to compete with big cable but they will both be using spectrum that can’t deliver a 5G signal very far. “Basically it’s a series of hot spots,” Legere said.

Note:   Sprint (#4 US wireless carrier) has not yet announced when it will roll out 5G.  The company notes that in addition to the Radio Access Network (RAN) there are many other functions that need to be in place (e.g. virtualization, management, SLAs for various use cases, BSS/OSS, etc) before 5G can go live.

References:

https://newsroom.t-mobile.com/video_display.cfm?video_id=15838

https://newsroom.t-mobile.com/news-and-blogs/nationwide-5g-blog.htm

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-t-mobile-us-5g-idUSKBN17Y1JI

https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/news/t-mobile-targets-2019-first-5g-markets-nationwide-2020/2017/05/

http://techblog.comsoc.org/2017/04/14/t-mobile-dish-networks-dominate-19-8b-fcc-auction/

 

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