T-Mobile shutters Sprint’s 5G network; OpenSignal 5G User Experience report highlights

As expected following the April 1st close of T-Mobile’s acquisition, Sprint’s 5G network (which uses 2.5GHz mid-band spectrum) has been deactivated while the “new T-Mobile” works to re-deploy it across its own network.

The integration of the Sprint mid-band spectrum is a key part of T-Mobile’s 5G strategy, which aims to combine low-band 600MHz spectrum for broad, nationwide 5G coverage with faster but lower-range midband (Sprint’s 2.5GHz network) and short-range mmWave networks for a balance of coverage and speed.

T-Mobile has already deployed its new 2.5GHz spectrum in New York, the first market to benefit from the wireless network operator’s spectrum in low-, mid-, and millimeter wave bands. The operator’s 2.5GHz 5G is also live in “parts” of Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia.

Most existing Sprint customers won’t be able to use their current devices going forward to access 5G.  Newer devices that feature Qualcomm’s X55 modem, like the Galaxy S20 5G lineup, will still be able to access the 2.5GHz 5G when they relaunch as part of the new T-Mobile’s 5G network (along with the rest of T-Mobile’s low-band and mmWave 5G spectrum). T-Mobile is offering credits for affected customers to lease a new 5G device.

“We are working to quickly re-deploy, optimize and test the 2.5 GHz spectrum before lighting it up on the T-Mobile network. In the meantime, legacy Sprint customers with compatible devices can enjoy T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G network,” a T-Mobile spokesperson said.

According to data from a new Opensignal 5G User Experience report, customers using T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G are benefitting from average download speeds of around 330Mbps. The mobile analytics company ranks T-Mobile first for 5G availability; with customers receiving a 5G signal around twice as often as AT&T and 56 times more than Verizon.

T-Mobile’s press release about the Opensignal report said customers are seeing average download speeds of 330 Mbps on its mid-band 2.5 GHz network.

5G phone

T-Mobile scored the highest marks for 5G availability in new Opensignal testing. (Getty Images)

From that OpenSignal report:

T-Mobile wins the 5G Availability award, as its 5G users spend 22.5% of time connected to 5G:

The time connected to a 5G service is extremely important if users are to enjoy all of 5G’s benefits. In the U.S., T-Mobile won the 5G Availability award by a large margin with Sprint and AT&T trailing with scores of 14.1% and 10.3%, respectively. Verizon users saw their extremely fast 5G service 0.4% of the time because of the limited geographical reach of the mmWave wireless technology Verizon currently relies upon for 5G and the early stage of the 5G deployment.

Sprint’s 5G users’ experience is already changing as new T-Mobile combines its network capabilities:

When we previously looked at the 5G Download Speed of Sprint’s users some time ago we saw average 5G speeds of 114.2 Mbps reflecting the mid-band 5G wireless spectrum Sprint relied upon. But following the completion of T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint, the new T-Mobile is starting to provide Sprint 5G users with access to old T-Mobile’s 600MHz spectrum and so average 5G speeds are now 49.5 Mbps but 5G Availability has risen from 10.3% to 14.1% of time. T-Mobile is still in the process of merging its original network with Sprint and we expect the mobile network experience of Sprint users will continue to change for some time.

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“Building the fastest 5G network is easy if you only cover less than 50 square miles. Opensignal’s report shows that only T-Mobile is doing the hard work to deliver BOTH 5G coverage and speed. And we’re just getting started,” said Neville Ray, President of Technology at T-Mobile.

“With the addition of Sprint, the Un-carrier’s 5G is getting bigger, better and faster every day, moving quickly on our mission to build the world’s best 5G network, one unlike any other, to people all across the country!”

T-Mobile and Sprint were finally cleared to merge on April 1st, following discussions which began in 2013.

To appease regulators, T-Mobile agreed to sell Sprint’s prepaid business, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile to Dish network for $1.4 billion. The deal also included selling Sprint’s entire 800 MHz portfolio of spectrum to Dish. Those deals formally completed yesterday.

Last month, T-Mobile asked California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to ease other conditions it agreed to in order for the merger to be granted – including job creation promises following the COVID-19 pandemic, average 5G coverage and speed commitments, and to remove a “burdensome” third independent test of its network.

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References:

T-Mobile switches off Sprint’s 5G network following $26.5 billion merger

https://www.fiercewireless.com/5g/t-mobile-deactivates-sprint-s-legacy-2-5-ghz-5g-ahead-re-deployments

https://www.opensignal.com/reports/2020/06/usa/mobile-network-experience-5g

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