Verizon, T-Mobile flesh out 5G plans as T-Mobile closes LTE coverage gap

5G phones (pixabay)
T-Mobile said the LTE coverage gap between T-Mobile and Verizon is a thing of history.

Both Verizon and T-Mobile made significant 5G announcements today, furthering their efforts to roll out millimeter wave technology—and T-Mobile also made good on its promise to narrow the LTE gap with its larger rival.

In a big win for Samsung Electronics America, Verizon will use commercial 5G Fixed Wireless Access network solutions from Samsung, with the first identified market being Sacramento, California, where they will launch commercially in the second half of 2018.

Specifically, Samsung will provide Verizon with commercial 5G home routers, 5G Radio Access Units (RAN), comprised of a compact radio base station and virtualized RAN elements, as well as 5G radio frequency planning services. Samsung said it leveraged in-house technology and assets to develop the first commercial ASIC-based 5G modems and millimeter wave RFICs.

The move comes as Samsung seeks to increase its network business in the United States and 5G in particular. The vendor is well-known for its R&D in 5G, but its actual network market share with U.S. operators has been minimal. The company, which has also been a femtocell supplier to Verizon, acknowledged last year that it was looking to learn a lot more about 28 GHz characteristics through its trials with Verizon.

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The two companies began 5G customer trials across seven U.S. cities in 2017 and found that they were able to achieve broadband service in line-of-sight (LOS), partial LOS and non-LOS connections. The trials were conducted in California, Georgia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas and Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile, Nokia and Intel reported reaching a major milestone in their 5G collaboration by bringing a 28 GHz outdoor commercial radio system on air in the busy downtown corridor of Bellevue, Washington. A data session was conducted on a 28 GHz radio in a field test environment using the Nokia 5G AirScale solution and the 5G Mobile Trial Platform from Intel, enabling T-Mobile to deploy its first inter-vendor 5G network.

The companies said the testing allows T-Mobile and Nokia to understand how millimeter wave-based 5G can be integrated with existing networks and how it co-exists with LTE. T-Mobile has emphasized that it will be using several spectrum bands—low, mid and high—to deliver on the promise of 5G.

RELATED: T-Mobile asks for STA to conduct 3.5 GHz tests using Ericsson, Nokia gear

T-Mobile also trumpeted another win in the network category by announcing it surpassed its commitment to reach 321 million people with LTE in 2017. It was no secret that the “un-carrier” wanted to close that coverage gap, which it made a priority last year.

T-Mobile said it now covers 322 million people and 99% as many people as Verizon. Its 600 MHz spectrum is now live in 586 cities and towns, and it plans to launch more than a dozen new 600 MHz capable smartphones in 2018.

“The LTE coverage gap between T-Mobile and Verizon is a thing of history,” said T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray in a press release. “Any small difference that exists will rapidly disappear as we accelerate expansion into rural America. We’re just getting started with the 600 MHz low-band spectrum we’re rolling out now, and it’s a wide-open highway for customers, increasing coverage, capacity and in-building reach.”

T-Mobile also said it closed on its agreement to purchase the remaining interest of Iowa Wireless from Aureon on Jan. 2. That agreement enables T-Mobile to further broaden its LTE footprint in Iowa and western Illinois and will eventually give Iowa Wireless customers access to “un-carrier” benefits.