T-Mobile mmWave 5G to be available in six cities on June 28th along with Samsung Galaxy S10 5G smartphone

T-Mobile US has announced it will use millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum to offer up “pre-standard 5G” services in parts of six cities beginning on June 28th.  Sales of the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will commence that same day (see References below). The company published detailed coverage maps showing where subscribers in Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York can expect to access their 5G network.

T-Mobile has said its plan for nationwide coverage hinges on its vast portfolio of 600 MHz spectrum, but the “Un-carrier” also has its own stash of high-band frequencies. Sprint activated its mobile 5G offering using mid-band 2.5 GHz spectrum. The complementary aspects of Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s spectrum is a key piece of the pending $26.5 billion merger, which is awaiting regulatory approval which may be delayed due to several states filing opposition lawsuits.

 

T-Mobile US CEO John Legere, has been highly critical of AT&T’s and Verizon’s millimeter wave-based 5G deployments (particularly the lack of coverage maps). He wrote in a June 20th blog post that the “New T-Mobile” (merged with Sprint) could deliver the range of spectrum needed for 5G.

Current 5G networks in the U.S. aren’t anything to write home about. That’s because they’re mostly focused on high-band millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, which doesn’t travel far from the cell site and is blocked by things like trees, windows and doors. It’s a massively important part of 5G, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just that – a PART. We’ve been clear all along… real, game-changing 5G will require a range of spectrum – low, mid and high – and only the New T-Mobile will be able to deliver it.”

Legere stated that the “New T-Mobile” (merged with Sprint) would be better able to deliver 5G because:

  • We’ve got the high-band spectrum with mmWave, which delivers massive capacity over a very small footprint.
  • Later this year, when compatible smartphones launch, we’ll launch broad 5G on our low-band 600 MHz spectrum, providing the wide area coverage necessary to reach across America.
  • If regulators approve our merger with Sprint, we’ll have the crucial mid-band spectrum (2.5 GHz), which provides the balance of coverage and capacity that enables a seamless and meaningful 5G experience. Mid-band spectrum is key to providing an ideal mix of coverage and capacity for 5G networks, and the combination of Sprint’s mid-band and our low-band will allow New T-Mobile to use both spectrum more efficiently, increasing capacity even more.

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T-Mobile said it will use “Multi-band Dual Connectivity” to aggregate “5G in the millimeter wave band and LTE.”

T-Mobile plans to launch a larger 5G network later this year using the low-band 600Mhz 5G spectrum, a technology not supported by the Galaxy S10 5G.  5G smart phones that support both mmWave and the low-band spectrum are expected later this year.

However, critical infrastructure for mmWave 5G will require many more small cells (due to limited range)  that will need to be mounted on mainly local (public) government property with fiber backhaul.  We wonder why that gating item is hardly ever discussed on line or in the telecom business press?  It is probably why T-Mobile’s 5G mmWave coverage is extremely limited as you can see from their coverage maps.

References:

https://www.t-mobile.com/news/samsung-galaxy-s10-5g

https://www.t-mobile.com/5g

https://www.tmonews.com/2019/06/t-mobile-galaxy-s10-5g-launch-network-six-cities/

 

2019 IoT World: T-Mobile is Changing the Game for Massive IoT via NB-IoT

Introduction:

T-Mobile USA was the first U.S. wireless carrier to provide nationwide NB-IoT coverage last July.  The “uncarrier” is very proud to have 81 million cellular customers and a very low churn rate.  The company has invested billions of dollars in the last five years to modernize and transform its wireless network. As of February 7, 2019,  T-Mobile’s LTE network now covers 325 million people, according to a recent earning report..

During his May 14th 2019 IoT World keynote, Balaji Sridharan, VP of IoT & M2M at T-Mobile US, described the challenges to overcome to realize massive IoT at scale and T-Mobile’s wireless networks that might be used for three different classes of IoT connectivity.  Balaji also enumerate key features and attributes of NB-IoT and showed an interesting comparison chart of LPWANs.  He said its 600 MHz spectrum is deployed throughout the U.S.  [1]

Note 1.  During its April 2019 earnings call, CTO Neville Ray said: “we have over 1 million square miles of 600 megahertz LTE rolled out.  It’s working in 44 states and Puerto Rico. And we have a 100 million covered PoPs on 600 megahertz LTE. So we’ve said that in 2020, we’ll have a nationwide footprint on 5G. 

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IoT Classification and Characteristics [from Ericsson white paper]:

Massive IoT: Connecting billions of devices, small amounts of data volumes, (mostly) sent infrequently, low power required for long battery life (years not days, weeks or months).

Broadband IoT will need high throughput and/or low latency.; large data volumes.

Critical IoT will require ultra high reliability/availability and very low latency.  Industrial automation (and robotic surgery) will require time sensitive information delivery and precise positioning of devices.

Industrial Automation is tailored for advanced industrial automation in conjunction with the other cellular IoT segments. It includes Radio Access Network (RAN) capabilities to facilitate the support of deterministic networks which, together with ethernet-based protocols and other industrial protocols, will enable many advanced industrial automation applications. 

These applications have extremely demanding connectivity requirements and require very accurate indoor positioning and distinct architecture and security attributes. Industrial Automation IoT reinforced by Critical IoT connectivity is the key enabler for the full digitalization of Industry 4.0 for the world’s manufacturers, the Oil and Gas sectors as well as smart grid components for energy distribution companies. 

Figure 1: Cellular IoT segments

Above chart courtesy of Ericsson.

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T-Mo has wireless networks to meet all of the above IoT market segmants.  In particular, NB-IoT, 4G-LTE, and (soon) 5G.

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Challenges to overcome for Massive IoT:

  • Support billions of devices at scale (that includes provisioning and (re) configuration).
  • Long battery life (via low power consumption of devices/things)
  • Coverage enhancements
  • Global reach

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NB-IoT meets the requirements for Massive IoT:

Operates in guard bands of T-Mobile’s LTE network. [2]

Wide range of devices to be connected to the Internet using existing mobile networks (rather then new network infrastructure).

Key benefits include:  better battery life (again via low power consumption for connectivity), cheaper device costs ($5 certified NB-IoT module is now available), optimized data usage, reduced IP header and ability to transmit/receive non-IP data (which results in 30% to 40% less data transmission than if traditional IP was used), enhanced security via GSMA standards, licensed spectrum (no interference),, SIM based, and encryption.

Balaji said: “Improved network coverage is achieved via repetitions, which are used to enhance coverage.”  [3.]

Note 2. NB-IoT can also be implemented in “standalone” for deployments in dedicated spectrum.

Note 3. From an IEEE published paper titled: Enhancing Coverage in Narrow Band-IoT Using Machine Learning:

NB-IoT needs only a small portion of the existing available cellular spectrum to operate without interfering with it. Hence, NB-IoT provides more reliability and more quality of service (QoS) as it operates in regulated spectrum. Moreover, NB-IoT uses existing cellular network infrastructure, which reduces the deployment costs.

However, since repeating transmission data and control signals has been selected as a major solution to enhance coverage of NB-IoT systems, this leads to reducing the system throughput and thereby a spectral efficiency loss.

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Here’s a comparison chart showing: 2G,  licensed spectrum NB-IoT vs unlicensed band Sigfox and LoRa (WAN):

Chart courtesy of T-Mobile USA

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Balaji highlighted several Massive IoT applications that could effectively  use NB-IoT for connectivity.  Those include: asset tracking, smart metering, smart lighting, equipment monitoring, smart packaging, and intelligent waste management.

In addition to the $5 NB-IoT modules now available Balaji revealed T-Mo has a $5/year NB-IoT service plan.  

T-Mo hosted the U.S.’ first NB-IoT Hackathon to develop IoT applications that would leverage NB-IoT as a viable wireless network.  Sensing the presene of forest fires was an example he provided.

T-Mo partnered with Twillio to get NB-IoT to market.  They created a new development kit that allowed Hackathon participants to access the NB-IoT network.  [4.]

Note 4.  More than 100 new and seasoned developers descended on T-Mobile HQ to help shape the future of NB-IoT at the Hackathon.  20 creative and unique IoT concepts for prospective IoT solutions emerged that could leverage the low cost and power efficiency of NB-IoT and its reliability over long distances.

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U.S. Carrier Comparison for NB-IoT Deployments:

T-Mobile launched its NB-IoT network last July. AT&T’s NB-IoT network went live two weeks ago. Sprint said it is testing NB-IoT technology, but it plans to merge with T-Mobile in the not-too-distant future so may not roll out its own NB-IoT offering.

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NB-IoT Chipset Forecast:

Research & Markets predicts the NB-IoT chipset market is expected to grow from USD 272 million in 2019 to USD 2,002 million by 2024 at a CAGR of 49.1%.

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References:

https://www.t-mobile.com/news/americas-first-narrowband-iot-network

https://iot.t-mobile.com/narrowband/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2019/04/27/t-mobile-u-s-profit-beats-estimates-plan-to-launch-5g-on-600-mhz-in-2h-2019/

https://www.gsma.com/iot/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NB-IoT_Deployment_Guide_v2_5Apr2018.pdf

https://iot.t-mobile.com/hackathon/

https://iot.t-mobile.com/wp-content/themes/T-Mobile/device_images/pdf_download/Whitepaper_NarrowBand_IoT_March2019.pdf

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2019/05/15/2019-iot-world-verizons-narrowband-iot-nb-iot-network-now-covers-92-of-u-s/

 

T-Mobile U.S. profit beats estimates; Plan to launch 5G on 600 MHz in 2H-2019

T-Mobile USA, the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier by subscriber count, beat Wall Street analysts estimates for first-quarter revenue and profit, as competitive pricing lured new subscribers to its monthly cellphone plans.  Net income surged to $908 million, or $1.06 per share, in the three months ended March 31, from $671 million, or 78 cents per share, a year earlier.  Analysts had expected the company to earn 91 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.   Revenue rose nearly 6 percent to $11.08 billion, in line with estimates.

T-Mo added a net 656,000 phone subscribers in the first quarter, up from 617,000 additions a year earlier and substantially more than the 612,000 new subscribers analysts had expected, according to research firm FactSet.

The wireless telco is awaiting approval of its $26 billion deal to buy smaller rival Sprint Corp, which it has said will give it scale to compete with market leaders Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.

T-Mobile US Chief Executive John Legere said during a post-earnings call with analysts that he remained “optimistic and confident” that U.S. regulators would recognize the merger as good for consumers, and said he still expects deal approval in the first half of this year.

Reuters reported last week that the U.S. Justice Department has told T-Mobile and Sprint it has concerns about the merger in its current structure.  At a meeting on Wednesday, U.S. regulators questioned Sprint and T-Mobile executives about the deal.

John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile said: “We’re off to a fast start in 2019 with customer growth that accelerated year-over-year, record low churn and we expect to lead the industry in postpaid phone growth. We’re executing on our business plan and our guidance shows that we expect our momentum to continue.”

On the earnings call, Legere added:  “And even with Charter and Sprint left to report. T-Mobile still took an estimated 88% of the industry’s postpaid phone growth. We also put up a customer growth number that accelerated year-over-year, extended our streak of more than 1 million total net per quarter to six years and delivered an all time record low postpaid phone churn results of 0.88%, by the way, that churn number is better than AT&T and within 4 basis points of Verizon.”

The company claims they have Industry Leading Network Performance:

  • 99% of Americans now covered with a 4G LTE network that is second to none
  • Fastest combined average of download and upload speeds for 21 quarters in a row
  • Aggressive deployment of 600 MHz using 5G ready equipment, now reaching nearly 3,500 cities and towns
  • On track to have the first nationwide 5G network available next year

Legere speaking on the earnings call:

“We continued to expand our 4G LTE coverage and deliver industry-leading network performance. Our network now covers approximately 326 million Americans with 4G LTE. And now we have 600 megahertz and 700 megahertz low band spectrum deployed to 304 million people across the country. In terms of 4G LTE speeds for 21 quarters in a row, we delivered the fastest combined average of download and upload speeds.

Our engineering team is hard at work building the foundation for America’s first real nationwide 4G network with an aggressive build out of 600 megahertz spectrum, which we expect to be ready next year as well as millimeter wave. Our 600 megahertz LTE deployment is on equipment that’s 5G ready. And we continue to make incredible progress since getting our hands on the spectrum. Almost 3,500 cities and towns in 44 states and Puerto Rico alive with LTE on 600 megahertz today, well ahead of expectations.

And we have 4,600 megahertz capable devices in our lineup today including the new iPhones. We plan to launch 5G on 600 megahertz as soon as we have compatible smart phones in the second half of this year. And if our merger with Sprint is approved, we will get access to unmatched available mid-band spectrum for 5G, which will result in a uniquely powerful 5G network with eight times the capacity by 2024 of the combined standalones today and 15 times average speeds by 2024 verses today.

We certainly watched Verizon’s 5G launch experiment on millimeter wave spectrum in tiny pockets of two cities with interest. Not surprisingly, customers are having a hard time finding a signal. And probably not just because Verizon won’t publish a coverage map. And I won’t even get into that trickery AT&T is using with customers on 5GE. While they both are pursuing 5G BS, we think 5G should be for everyone, everywhere. Having 5G on 600 megahertz in terms of coverage and adding Sprint spectrum for broad capacity will be a true game changer and will turn New T-Mobile into the undisputed 5G leader, not only in the U.S. but around the world. We remained very confident in our outlook for 2019 and it’s reflected in our guidance that Braxton will review in a minute.”

CTO Neville Ray answers a spectrum question from Simon Flannery of Morgan Stanley on the earnings call:

“As we’re rolling out 600 megahertz, we’re using 5G capable radio (3GPP Rel 15 “5G NR”). So obviously we’re taking new software on a regular basis, the 5G softwares coming in heavy and fast.

But here we are today, we’ve got over 1 million square miles of 600 megahertz LTE rolled out for across.  It’s working in 44 states and Puerto Rico. And we have a 100 million covered POPs on 600 megahertz LTE. So we’ve said that in 2020, we’ll have a nationwide footprint on 5G. And as we look at our launch environment, when we get the terminals in the second half of 2019, we’re going to be lighting up an enormous footprint on 5G, an enormous footprint on 600 megahertz.

And we have a lot of spectrum as you point out. We were incredibly successful in the auction, which seems like yesterday, that was two years ago. And we intend to put down a very large three, four lane highway across the U.S. with 600 megahertz. And I think it’s going to be in stark contrast to the pockets of 5G that are out there today and very, very limited from AT&T and Verizon. And Verizon maybe doing more cities, but it seems to be a handful of sites in very urban environments with very limited range.

And we’re not sitting there just throwing rocks at millimeter wave. We believe in millimeter wave, but – and we will launch millimeter wave services ourselves. But I can tell you now the software is not mature. We continue to work with the same equipment and software as the Verizon guys have decided to launch and even have the goal to ask their customers to pay $10 bucks more a month to access wherever they could find it. I believe they pulled that back today. They’ve pulled back the $10 price like they were trying to force on people, but comparing contrast tens of millions of covered POPs with 5G to handfuls. That’s the excitement and scale of what we love to do with 5G. Not in 2020, but in 2019. And as soon as we can get those devices onto – and into our customer’s hands, we will.”

John Legere:

“I just editorialize, I’ve been doing this a long time, I’ve never seen a team move as fast to deploy spectrum as an excellent team that moved on this 600 MHz. Yes, we use to think that we are now across 3,500 cities and towns in 44 states and Puerto Rico, 1 million square miles of territory with 600 and all of that already 5G compatible. We talk about being the first one to be nationwide next year, a lot of times that’s defined as 200 million, maybe we’ll march past that. But here we are in April of 2019 already having accomplished that kind of a milestone. It’s amazing.”

Ray answers a multi-part question from Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson LLC:

“I talked the lengths are about what we can do with 600 megahertz and obviously, as we light up, think about just on a standalone basis, lighting up 30 megahertz nationwide on top of the assets that we’ve deployed today. So speeds are absolutely going to move from the 30, 35 net averages, they that exist in the network today, into the 60s and 70s peak speeds are going to move well north probably not quite doubling where we are today, but into the hundreds of megabits per second.

That’s achievable, right. As you combine an aggregate, the 600 megahertz in with the mid-band spectrum that we have. So that’s a very interesting proposition. But it fails in comparison to what we can do with the New T-Mobile. And the rollout that we can achieve with 2.5 gigahertz and especially the amount of spectrum mid-band spectrum that we can push into 5G early, and address this need of mid-band 5G, which the world – the rest of the world is running with. Craig as you know, here in the U.S., we have this mid-band dilemma. We can solve that with the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint, and really move forward with a tremendous 5G experience with breadth and depth and all of the data and the fact points that John pointed out earlier in the messaging.

So that’s the piece I’m focused on. Obviously on a standalone basis, it’s a different world. But then that’s us and AT&T and Verizon and everybody else trying to figure out how do we move to that next level of performance with 5G in a world where the mid-band spectrum that’s needed to really drive that is not coming from auctions or from other sources in any real timeframe that’s comfortable for anybody.

But the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint creates that mid-band opportunity in a way that cannot be created in the U.S. marketplace over the coming years. That’s what’s so unique and exciting about the opportunity. And Craig, that’s where I spend my time. I’m thinking about that piece. I know we’ve got a very strong network. I’m adding a lot of 600 megahertz, a new spectrum to the asset that we have. So a lot of confidence there, but the excitement and the thing that we long for and look forward to is this combination of the Sprint.”

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References:

https://www.t-mobile.com/news/t-mobile-q1-2019-earnings

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4256978-t-mobile-us-tmus-ceo-john-legere-q1-2019-results-earnings-call-transcript?page=8

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