T-Mobile closed its deal with Sprint earlier this month, bringing it down to three nationwide carriers. And in this merger, T-Mobile is already starting to refarm and work in Sprint's 5G network and spectrum into its network. Which means that those that bought a Sprint 5G smartphone last year, are about to be pretty pissed off.
The reason for that is because it won't work on Sprint's 5G network, once T-Mobile starts to refarm and redeploy the spectrum in its 5G network. This doesn't mean that your 5G phone won't be usable though. It just means that it won't be able to get 5G on T-Mobile's network.
There are a few exceptions here, like the Galaxy S20 lineup, which will work on the upgraded 5G network. However, 5G phones from 2019 won't be supported. Luckily, there aren't many of those. But the biggest one is the Galaxy S10 5G and the LG V50 ThinQ 5G.
Here's why those 5G phones won't work after the upgrade
The biggest reason why Sprint's early 5G devices won't work on T-Mobile's 5G network is because of its 600MHz low-band spectrum, which is being used for 5G. Many of the older 5G phones don't have a modem that can support that spectrum. Since that modem was not made available until late last year. Hence the reason why T-Mobile didn't launch any 5G phones until around December of 2019.
Now, T-Mobile is going to allow the Sprint Galaxy S10 5G to work on its mmWave network when that launches in the future. The T-Mobile version of the Galaxy S10 5G will also work on its network and with the redeployed midband spectrum.
This basically comes down to the fact that T-Mobile is going to need to take the already deployed Sprint 5G and refarm it so it works with its network. This means that it needs to shut down the existing network and then redeploy the spectrum.
By doing this, it means that it can use its 2.5GHz spectrum it got from Sprint and its 600MHz spectrum it already has rolled out, for 5G. That is going to increase the speed of its 5G network, which right now is pretty slow. That will get T-Mobile two-thirds of the way there with their 5G vision. The third aspect is mmWave, which it is actually planning to roll out later this year. And that will make the 5G network blazing fast like Verizon.
Sprint 5G is starting off much like its 4G network
If this sounds familiar, that's because it is.
With its 4G network, over a decade ago, Sprint also ended up having to shut off the network and refarm the spectrum. As the rest of the industry decided to use LTE for 4G instead of WiMax.
Though, Sprint didn't waste as much money this time. Seeing as it bought ClearWire for WiMax, and then ended up not needing it. But that 2.5GHz spectrum is still very sought after, so it wasn't a completely bad acquisition like the Nextel one.
This is going to suck for Sprint customers, especially those that bought a 5G device last year. But luckily, that is a very small group. And also luckily, their phone won't stop working. They'll just be stuck on 4G LTE.