T-Mobile keeps pace on 600 MHz upgrades ahead of 5G launch

T-Mobile's latest 600 MHz and 700 MHz site upgrades span 297 locations across 46 states. (Monica Alleven/FierceWireless)

T-Mobile is keeping pace on 600 MHz and 700 MHz LTE upgrades as the operator prepares to launch broad 5G coverage next week using its low-band spectrum.  

T-Mobile’s Neville Ray (who is being promoted to president of Technology) on Tuesday Tweeted that more sites have been upgraded with 600 MHz and 700 MHz spectrum in the last two weeks, linking to a list (PDF) that includes 297 locations across 46 states:


This follows a Nov. 13 Tweet touting mid-band capacity upgrades at hundreds of new sites across the country: 


T-Mobile’s latest LTE coverage upgrade list includes 22 locations in Texas and two in Nevada. Separately, both of those states were swayed this week to reached settlements with T-Mobile and drop out of multi-state lawsuit to block the carrier’s pending merger with Sprint over competition concerns. As with other states, T-Mobile committed to 5G buildouts in Texas and Nevada, among other pledges.

Led by state attorneys general representing New York and California, the antitrust trial begins Dec. 9.

RELATED: New York AG not budging on T-Mobile/Sprint deal

Mike Sievert, the current president and COO at T-Mobile who’s poised to take over the chief executive role next year, said on the operator’s third-quarter earnings call that there was “no slowdown” on 600 MHz rollouts and the effort will continue into next year.

“As we move into 2020, we obviously look to continue to build out that footprint across the nation,” Sievert said at the time. ”And remember, we have nationwide, I mean, fully coast to coast spectrum here that we can leverage, and it's a key part of the commitments that we've made to the FCC and many others in terms of our build-out of 5G services and LTE.”

The 600 MHz and 700 MHz upgrades are adding LTE capacity, but site enhancements include dual-banded radios that support 600 MHz and address 5G NR upgrades via a software download. T-Mobile has also been doing small cell work and upgrading site backhaul in preparation for 5G.

T-Mobile has long touted its 600 MHz spectrum as a coverage layer for 5G, with better range than high-band millimeter wave spectrum. At the end of the third quarter 2019, T-Mobile’s 600 MHz spectrum was live in nearly 8,300 cities and towns and 48 states, covering 1.4 million square miles.

RELATED: T-Mobile ponies up 5G commitments for low income families, first responders

With a launch date slated for Dec. 6, the operator has pledged to cover 200 million people with its low-band 5G. T-Mobile CEO John Legere said last month that the carrier has “thousands” of 5G-ready towers and cell sites.

Several devices with support for 600 MHz are already on the market, and T-Mobile has said more than 26 million people now have that technology in their hand. Handsets capable of tapping into T-Mobile’s 5G service though are still to come – with two 5G smartphones teed up to coincide with next week’s launch. Initially, T-Mobile will offer the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G.

Competitor AT&T is geared up to launch its own low-band flavor of 5G. The carrier plans to roll out service in the coming weeks using 850 MHz spectrum and offering 5G to consumers for the first time.