5G has been a big topic in the past few months, with AT&T and Verizon launching a form of 5G in select markets already, as well as carriers announcing devices that they will be carrying in 2019 that are 5G-capable. Surprisingly, T-Mobile has been pretty quiet on that front. That was until today, when T-Mobile's CTO, Neville Ray penned a rather lengthy blog post about 5G. Ray debunked some myths and put his competitors 5G plans into perspective. Starting with the fact that T-Mobile is also working with Samsung on that 5G smartphone. Stating that it is "a phone ALL of us are working with this OEM to develop, and ALL of us are going to carry." Ray also stated that T-Mobile is working with other OEMs and chipset makers on 5G devices too, that will work across multiple spectrum bands. This pretty much confirmed that the 5G smartphone from Samsung is going to be a variant of the Galaxy S10. Which was already the rumor from the rumor mill. As it appears that Samsung is going to have a few different variants of the Galaxy S10 next year, with one being a 5G model.
Ray also noted that Verizon spend millions of dollars on dead-end 5G technology. And this technology is for a fixed 5G network, meaning that if you leave your home, you're no longer on 5G but rather using 4G LTE. Ray is referring to the use of millimeter-wave, which is a technology that both Verizon and AT&T are using. Though they likely won't be using it for long. T-Mobile has been against it from the start, because it doesn't cover much area, and the signal can be interrupted by things like walls, and furniture, making it very fragile, even compared to the spectrum used in 4G LTE today. Ray quoted a few publications that were at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit earlier this month, where they got to demo devices on a live 5G network from Verizon and/or AT&T, and noted that the device couldn't be moved because it needed to be at a specific angle. That's not how 5G should work, and T-Mobile agrees.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile is going to have the spectrum assets needed to bring 5G to everyone in the US. That is if the Sprint merger is approved – which it looks like it will be approved, eventually. Ray notes that by 2021 it will be able to cover around 67-percent of the US population with speeds of 100Mbps or faster. And by 2024, that will increase to 90-percent. Ray says "the other guys can't even come close anytime soon, and they'll need to work hard to catch up."
T-Mobile isn't looking to be first, but rather be the first to do 5G right
While Verizon and AT&T are clamoring to be "first" at everything in the 5G space – from launching first, to doing the first 5G phone call, to announcing the first 5G smartphone – T-Mobile is taking its time to do it right. This is not new for T-Mobile, it has done this before with 4G (and then 4G LTE). Though that was under a different set of circumstances. T-Mobile was the last carrier in the US to launch its 4G LTE network, which really began in 2012, a good four years after AT&T and Verizon launched theres. Though it wasn't about doing it "right" back then, it was about what it could afford to do. In 2012, T-Mobile was a much different company. For one, it was not a public company, it was owned by Deutsche Telekom who were looking to get out of the US. It was also losing millions of customers every single quarter, and shrinking. Now it's the complete opposite. And instead of racing to be first, T-Mobile is making sure it has all of its ducks in a row first. This is why T-Mobile says that it will be able to launch 5G in many markets all at the same time. Instead of doing it in just a handful of markets at a time. Getting the 2.5GHz spectrum from Sprint when that merger closes next year (pending approval, of course), T-Mobile could be first to cover the entire nation with 5G.
No 5G Pucks For T-Mobile
Back at Mobile World Congress earlier this year, Neville Ray spoke to the press about its plan for 5G in 2019. He mentioned that his competitors are going to be making these 5G hotspots – also called "pucks" – as their first 5G devices. It was something that Ray and T-Mobile's CEO, John Legere both made fun of AT&T for doing. And after seeing its first 5G hotspot, it's clear why, the thing is huge. But T-Mobile believes that Pucks are not something that consumers want to have, carry around or pay for. And he is correct there. AT&T is only offering these "pucks" to a few customers, and it will be at no cost for 90 days, basically a user-trial. Ray says that is not a launch, stating that AT&T cannot launch it because the tech is not ready. Meaning that AT&T's "launch" of 5G is technically fake news.
T-Mobile's 5G is coming in 2019
T-Mobile is heavily banking on the regulators approving its merger of Sprint, for its 5G network. This is because of all of the spectrum that Sprint has, including that 2.5GHz spectrum that will be really good in 5G. Seeing as most of the world is going to be moving to sub-6GHz spectrum for 5G instead of using millimeter-wave for its 5G network, the 2.5GHz spectrum will be very valuable for T-Mobile. The merger has not yet been approved, but it should be in the beginning of 2019. It has gotten the green light from a few regulators already. Because T-Mobile launched its 4G LTE network later on, and has been launching new LTE tech on its network, it is in a better position to launch its 5G network next year, in many markets. Covering nearly two-thirds of the US population in just two years is pretty insane, and covering 90-percent in about five years is also pretty insane. But T-Mobile says they can and will do it.