T-Mobile said during its first quarter 2019 earnings report Thursday that it plans to launch 5G on 600 MHz as soon as it has compatible smart phones in the second half of 2019.
The company also said it added 656,000 branded postpaid customers during its first quarter 2019 as part of total branded postpaid net additions over 1 million, which was also supported by strong growth in wearables. The company added 69,000 prepaid net customers during the quarter. And it reported record-low postpaid phone churn of 0.88%, down 19 basis points year-over-year.
The carrier’s total revenues increased by 6% year-over-year to $11.1 billion, and it reported net income for the quarter of $908 million, up 35% year-over-year, resulting in earnings per share of $1.06, up 36%.
T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere provided an update of the company’s network, saying it has 600 MHz and 700 MHz low-band spectrum deployed to 304 million people across the country. It’s also in the process of building out more 600 MHz LTE, which it expects to be ready next year as well as millimeter wave (mmWave). “Our 600 MHz LTE deployment is on equipment that’s 5G ready,” said Legere. “Almost 3,500 cities and towns in 44 states and Puerto Rico are alive with LTE on 600 MHz today, well ahead of expectations,” according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.
Regarding the planned offering at 600 MHz, T-Mobile’s CTO Neville Ray said, “And, I remind you again that, as we’re rolling out 600 MHz, we’re using 5G capable radios.” And he said for the 600 MHz deployment, “I mean we’re not quite doing a one-on-one overlay, but we are deploying pretty heavily. So, there’s literally tens of thousands of sites that will receive 600 MHz, not all this year obviously. But we are doing a very heavy deployment on 600.”
He also said speeds on the LTE network would increase from about 30 Mbps to as high as 70 Mbps peak speeds “probably not quite doubling where we are today, but into the hundreds of megabits per second.”
Ray also addressed mmWave, which he recently said would not materially scale beyond small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments. Yesterday, he said T-Mobile believes in mmWave, and plans to use the technology itself. But, he reiterated that it’s not a technology for scale.
“It doesn’t penetrate walls, windows very well,” he said. “It doesn’t go very far. “You get much more than 500, 600 feet away from a small cell, you ain’t really seeing much, right? mmWave can play well in those dense urban environments; but it doesn’t solve the 5G story, especially not in the three-million-plus square miles of the U.S.”
T-Mobile has promised that if its merger with Sprint is allowed to proceed, the New T-Mobile will deploy mobile networks in more rural areas. And, there have been plenty of skeptics to that promise given T-Mobile’s lack of interest in rural in the past. But, on yesterday’s call, T-Mobile’s President and COO Mike Sievert gave an explanation for its rural strategy that made some sense.
He said the company’s expansion investments in greenfield areas such as small towns and the suburban fringe have been some of the “most productive expansion investments we’ve made.” He added, “Our urban cores are our most productive areas by far, but of course there’s cannibalization effect as you add distribution density in those areas. And so, from a future investment standpoint, you’ll probably see us focused more on suburban fringe and greenfield markets.”