T-Mobile: We’ll have nationwide 5G by 2020

Neville Ray
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray. (T-Mobile)

T-Mobile will deploy 5G service nationwide by 2020, CTO Neville Ray said this morning. And it will leverage much of its new 600 MHz to do so.

“We’re committed to drive a 5G rollout by 2020 across the nation, and neither AT&T nor Verizon have stepped up to that challenge,” Ray said during an investor conference in Barcelona, Spain, this morning. “There’s been a lot of discussion [of] millimeter wave and the kind of surgical, tactical deployments of 5G, and we’ll be there too. But we’ll deploy in the 600 MHz for 5G as we move into the next decade.”

Both of the country’s two largest carriers have focused heavily on fixed wireless technologies and services as they progress toward fully mobile 5G in the coming years. Verizon is testing fixed 5G service in 11 markets around the country with the aim of significantly increasing its internet footprint beyond what it currently services with its wired Fios service. AT&T launched fixed wireless 5G tests earlier this year in Austin, Texas, and is expanding those tests to at least three more cities by the end of the year.

T-Mobile, though, appears to be less focused on fixed wireless technologies and more focused on leveraging the 600 MHz airwaves it won at auction earlier this year—spectrum that was once thought ill-suited for 5G—as it plots its strategy for a next-generation network. T-Mobile in August flipped the switch on the first of its 600 MHz sites in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and will step up its deployment of those airwaves next year.

And while some carriers are placing a high priority on high-band spectrum—which offers significantly increased capacity but doesn’t propagate as well as lower bands—T-Mobile believes more attention should be paid to low- and mid-band airwaves.

“We have to have a strong mid-band 5G story for the U.S. marketplace,” Ray continued. “I think the discussion has moved away from the early, Verizon-led millimeter-wave story … Millimeter wave will play a role but we’re pushing hard on the other end, low-band.”