The initial implementation of the fifth generation of mobile networks may result in speeds that are only between 25- and 50-percent faster than what 4G LTE is already offering, according to Karri Kuoppamaki, T-Mobile Vice President of Technology Development and Strategy. While speaking at yesterday's Brooklyn 5G Summit, Mr. Kuoppamaki downplayed the expectations surrounding 5G, thus echoing the sentiments previously expressed by his colleague and T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray. 5G won't make "one iota of difference" next year, Mr. Neville said in February, having asserted the technology is a smart long-term investment but not something that will revolutionize the wireless industry overnight.
The difference between T-Mobile's initial expectations and those laid out by Verizon and AT&T, both of whom are expecting multi-gigabit speeds in the near future, may come down to the fact that T-Mobile first 5G network will be based on its vast 600MHz spectrum holdings which will allow it to conduct swifter deployment given how the frequency in question is suitable for traveling over long distances on its own and hence isn't particularly reliant on the existence of ultra-dense networks filled with small cells. On the other hand, the data transfer rates enabled by such spectrum are also lower compared to millimeter-wave alternatives which are presently being pursued by other carriers in the country, though T-Mobile itself is also looking into those technologies, at least superficially.
Mr. Kuoppamaki claims mmWave 5G requires a small cell site every 900 feet, with his estimate being less than half of what Verizon previously said can be accomplished with such solutions, having touted gigabit speeds at up to 2,000 feet from a small cell station. "It's kind of irrelevant" what speeds will 5G be able to deliver from the moment it launches, but the long-term implications of the technology are far-reaching and will eventually enable significantly improved data transfer rates, capacities, and latencies, Mr. Kuoppamaki said. Both Verizon and AT&T are planning to start limited commercial 5G deployment in the second half of the year, though only the latter is targeting truly mobile solutions, while Verizon will first be focusing on fixed wireless access technologies. Sprint and T-Mobile will follow suit early next year, with all four of the largest network operators in the United States promising national 5G coverage by 2020.