T-Mobile’s claim that Big Red carrier Verizon Wireless is “clueless” when it comes to a proper 5G strategy has met a response — except, the strategy is so secret Verizon isn’t planning to share the details anytime soon.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere said that Verizon is “clueless” and “dead in the water without a strategy” when it comes to 5G. Verizon’s response is that it will have a “multi-spectrum strategy,” a reference to Legere’s claim that Verizon is living off its millimeter-wave spectrum which travels at fast speeds over short distances and works well only in urban areas. In rural areas, millimeter-wave doesn’t perform well at all.
With multi-spectrum, Verizon is saying that it will use millimeter-wave for urban areas and low-band spectrum for rural areas. Verizon has a ton of mid-band and low-band spectrum currently on 2G EDGE and 3G that it can take and update to 5G.
As has been seen in PCMag’s 5G service plans study, mid-band spectrum is only available in the US with Sprint, but exists in Europe with a number of global carriers. Mid-band spectrum allows carriers to update existing 4G networks. Its absence leaves carriers with no choice but to pay for existing 5G technologies, which costs a lot.
Outside of Verizon claiming that its speeds will be the same and that it will deploy 5G in rural areas, little was said in response to Legere’s claim. Sadly, what this says is that Verizon doesn’t have a strategy.
Right now, though, the Big Red carrier doesn’t have to worry about 5G deployment in rural areas because few rural customers experience 4G. Remember AT&T? It claimed it had “5G Evolution” technology but it was really just an updated 4G network. It seems as though this is what Verizon will do at first to achieve 5G-like speeds, as opposed to actual 5G speeds.
Legere is calling out Verizon this way because he’s gloating behind the T-Mobile/Sprint merger that has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice (DoJ).
Now that the $26.5 billion merger has been approved, the Magenta UNcarrier has acquired mid-band spectrum from Sprint (remember, Sprint is the only US carrier that has mid-band spectrum). The mid-band spectrum it has acquired will help Magenta deploy its 5G network at a faster rate than it could do on its own.
T-Mobile acquired the one national carrier with a large presence in rural areas (Sprint). Verizon, then, is left without Sprint for acquisition, which means that the best carrier it can acquire at this point would be fifth-ranked US Cellular. A US Cellular acquisition for 5G deployment in rural areas makes sense though, because US Cellular, like Verizon, runs on CDMA technology.
Overnight, Verizon would add millions of customers to its 4G deployment in rural areas, making the 5G upgrade easy for those customers. US Cellular didn’t have the user base of Sprint, however, but its network is healthy and strong, as US Cellular has upgraded its 4G network within the last year or two.
Verizon has a lot of spectrum of the millimeter-wave kind, but it won’t be enough to bring 5G to rural areas that are currently living on Verizon’s 2G EDGE or 1X data. For Verizon to deploy 5G in rural areas, it will have to get serious about an acquisition, as T-Mobile got serious about its Sprint acquisition.
Legere is laughing at Verizon because T-Mobile’s Sprint acquisition with its 2.5GHz, mid-band spectrum and large rural customer base pose problems for Verizon. Verizon’s always boasted that it’s the “most reliable carrier” when it comes to the nation’s 4G LTE network, but customers in rural areas can attest to the contrary.
What Verizon will finally have to do, in this “New T-Mobile era,” is compete where it counts: in the rural areas, in the “sticks,” with customers who don’t live in dense, urban areas. How will Verizon do it? Verizon’s promising the same “great” coverage, but considering its lackluster performance in rural areas, don’t hold your breath.