Customers for the time being are using the two separate networks of T-Mobile and Sprint, but T-Mobile is wasting no time putting Sprint’s trove of 2.5 GHz to work for it in a 5G realm.
“We will start lighting up 5G on what was Sprint’s spectrum almost immediately,” President and CEO Mike Sievert said on CNBC on Wednesday, the same day he took the reins from John Legere.
The coronavirus crisis might affect T-Mobile’s ability to move ahead in terms of getting the permits from municipalities and governments across the country that are operating at less than their usual capacity.
“But it won’t slow us down,” he said, noting that it’s been classified by the Department of Homeland Security and the administration as an essential service, so it can continue operating. “We’ve determined from a network standpoint that we can do that safely,” he told CNBC’s David Faber.
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Much of the work, tower by tower, is done by individual crews of one person, and sometimes it’s three, four or five people who arrive in separate vehicles and can work outdoors at a safe distance from one another. “We’re planning to proceed,” he said, noting it’s essential for the American public, most of which is on lock-down and practicing social distancing through the pandemic.
T-Mobile already has deployed 5G using its low-band 600 MHz spectrum and it can use Sprint’s portfolio of about 160 MHz of 2.5 GHz for its mid-band play, which its rivals do not have to such a wide degree.
Last week, T-Mobile was granted permission from the FCC to use Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area to begin assessing how the 2.5 GHz spectrum works with its own 5G New Radio (NR) operations.
We'll move FAST to bring the @TMobile and @Sprint networks together and build #5GforAll. How fast? New T-Mobile is already deploying midband 5G spectrum in Philly. And we're just getting started. pic.twitter.com/o3LLKA6K9Q— Neville (@NevilleRay) April 1, 2020
Sievert noted the work being done by President of Technology Neville Ray and John Saw, the former CTO of Sprint who joined the new T-Mobile as executive vice president of Advanced and Emerging Technologies. That they had a long time to get ready for the transition is actually a bit of a silver lining in the protracted battle to become one entity.
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As the COVID-19 crisis is showing, it’s more important than ever for people to stay connected when they can’t be in close physical proximity to one another.
“Our competitors have 5G strategies that are so different from what New T-Mobile can do,” Sievert said. “Verizon continues to talk about millimeter wave deployments in sporadic places here and there around the country where we intend to cover 99% of this country, not just with low-band 5G like standalone T-Mobile could do, but with broad and deep rich 5G that’s totally transformational.”
Some 90% of Americans eventually will see speeds of 100 Mbps or better. “This is game changing and it’s one of the reasons we worked so hard to bring this day about,” he said.
T-Mobile has acknowledged the COVID-19 crisis will make a “material” impact on its business. The “un-carrier” closed about 75% of its company-owned stores, which is something its competitors also have done, he noted. But he’s not acting worried about the long-term prospects. “This is a recurring revenue business,” where most people pay on an ongoing basis. “We’re the value player.”
Sievert reiterated that T-Mobile’s vendors are Ericsson and Nokia, and it’s planning to expand its 5G network with existing suppliers.
The new company, with 140 million mobile customers, will be owned by long-time parent Deutsche Telekom as well as by SoftBank. Former Sprint Chairman Marcelo Claure and Ron Fisher of Softbank are now members of the new T-Mobile board.