5G is headed to Metro by T-Mobile prepaid service next year

T-Mobile 5G bands (Mike Dano/FierceWireless)
T-Mobile will use 600 MHz for its 5G build-out, alongside other spectrum bands. (Mike Dano/FierceWireless)

T-Mobile’s prepaid brand will launch 5G services at roughly the same time the operator launches the technology for its main T-Mobile brand, according to carrier executives.

As reported by CNET, T-Mobile’s Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray said the carrier’s pending 5G launch will be sold through all of the operator’s outlets, including its prepaid brand.

T-Mobile is using equipment from Ericsson and Nokia to build a 5G network across the carrier’s 600 MHz, 28 GHz and 39 GHz spectrum in 30 cities—including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Las Vegas—during 2018. However, T-Mobile’s Ray said earlier this year the operator won’t be able to offer compatible smartphones for the service until early 2019.

And yesterday, T-Mobile rebranded its prepaid service MetroPCS as Metro by T-Mobile. The action is partly an attempt by T-Mobile to tell customers the brand is powered by T-Mobile’s network.

In conjunction with the rebranding effort, T-Mobile’s prepaid service is also refreshing its pricing options to include Google One cloud storage services and an Amazon Prime account with its $60-per-month unlimited option.

T-Mobile’s 5G launch in the U.S. will be relatively unique, at least based on operators’ initial commentary around their 5G launch plans. Specifically, T-Mobile plans to primarily use its 600 MHz spectrum for its initial 5G build-out. The carrier spent roughly $8 billion on those licenses during the FCC’s recent incentive spectrum auction of TV broadcasters’ unwanted spectrum licenses. To be clear, though, T-Mobile has also said it will use other spectrum bands including its millimeter-wave spectrum holdings for its forthcoming 5G service.

The upshot for T-Mobile is that low-band spectrum like 600 MHz will allow the carrier to quickly cover large geographic areas of the U.S. with 5G due to the propagation characteristics of the spectrum.

Meantime, Verizon is initially using its 28 GHz spectrum for its own 5G efforts. Indeed, the operator’s newly launched 5G Home service uses 28 GHz spectrum.

AT&T also plans to use its own millimeter-wave spectrum holdings for 5G, though the operator has hinted that it will refarm its midband holdings for 5G as well. And Sprint has said its 5G launch will primarily use its vast 2.5 GHz holdings.