T-Mobile to roll out 5G over 600 MHz and other spectrum

Legere
T-Mobile CEO John Legere. Image: T-Mobile

T-Mobile outlined plans to launch a nationwide 5G network starting in 2019. And the carrier will use some of its newly acquired 600 MHz spectrum to help do it.

The nation’s No. 3 wireless network operator was the top bidder in the FCC’s incentive auction that wrapped up a few weeks ago, agreeing to spend nearly $8 billion to acquire the low-band airwaves. T-Mobile executives have said repeatedly they plan to put some of that spectrum to use as soon as this year.

Unlike its competitors, though, T-Mobile is also looking to deploy 5G services on the low-band spectrum. By contrast, Verizon and AT&T are looking to deploy fixed wireless services in advance of mobile 5G, and they’re focusing on high-band spectrum that offers increased capacity and speed but doesn’t propagate as well.

“The duopoly hopes that fixed wireless will allow them to compete with big cable for your home broadband,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a video announcing T-Mobile’s strategy. “Of course, that should be really fun to watch, because if there’s anyone that consumers hate more than the duopoly, it’s probably big cable.

“The duopoly’s 5G strategy is basically a series of hotspots,” Legere continued. “That’s no solution for mobile 5G coverage, or coverage anywhere outside of a small area downtown.”

T-Mobile’s 5G won’t be limited to 600 MHz, however. Legere said the carrier will deploy 5G on all its spectrum bands, including its 28 GHz and 39 GHz airwaves.

The strategy indicates T-Mobile is prioritizing 5G coverage over data speed, Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research wrote. That may enable the carrier to roll out 5G services nationwide ahead of its rivals, but that rollout won’t deliver “the dramatic generational leap in performance” that is typically seen during a generational transition from one technology to the next.

It could provide a way for T-Mobile to grow its internet of things (IoT) business, however.

“T-Mobile will get some of the other benefits of 5G, even if it won’t get the speed, however,” Dawson wrote. “One of the major benefits of 5G is the ability to have a single network perform in different ways optimized for various classes of devices. That means it can provide both higher-speed service to smartphones while also operating in a very efficient way for Internet of Things devices, which in turn will be able to last for years on a single battery.”

And T-Mobile’s move to launch 5G services on 600 MHz spectrum should serve as a catalyst for the ecosystem, Susan Welsh de Grimaldo of Strategy Analytics noted, which could help others who pocketed spectrum in the incentive auction.

“Aggressive network deployment and push by T-Mobile on the device ecosystem to get 600 MHz handsets and modules with LTE leading up to its 5G rollout, and its early nationwide 5G push, will be beneficial for other winners of 600 MHz spectrum as T-Mobile does the heavy lifting of pushing for devices to work in that band,” Grimaldo wrote.