T-Mobile US Inc. said it would deploy fifth-generation wireless technology nationwide by 2020. AT&T and Verizon are pouring billion of dollars into wireless airwave licenses that might support 5G. Their CEO, John Legere, and its chief technology officer, Neville Ray, strongly oppose AT&T's "fake 5G network" announcement from April, saying that it is "based on [4G LTE] technologies [T-Mobile] launched in 2016.
T-Mobile intends to launch a proper 5G network with its low-band spectrum. It will use the 31MHz of low-band 600MHz spectrum on which it spent nearly $8 billion to roll out a full nationwide 5G network by 2020. AT&T and Verizon haven't yet committed to a specific 5G rollout yet. T-Mobile says that 5G is going to be about more than speed. Which is why it feels comfortable using its 600MHz spectrum.
"5G means amazingly fast speeds, sure, but 5G is a whole lot more! 5G will mean lower-latency, massively increased battery life and an exponential leap in the number of connections we can handle simultaneously – and that unlocks all kinds of amazing new applications. It's about more than just speed."
T-Mobile, like the rest of the industry, can't rely on low- and mid-band spectrum for 5G.
"In addition to the 600 MHz band, we have 200 MHz of spectrum in the 28/39 GHz bands covering nearly 100 million people in major metropolitan areas and an impressive volume of mid-band spectrum to deploy 5G in as well. This positions T-Mobile to deliver a 5G network that offers BOTH breadth and depth nationwide."
Verizon and AT&T have already pursued regional 5G tests, and Verizon said in a blog post in late April that it didn't need to purchase any 600MHz spectrum because it has sufficient spectrum holdings below 1 GHz.
"We are investing in the future. We have access to 28 GHz and 39 GHz spectrum that we will use for 5G. And the fiber we acquired through our XO and Corning transactions are enhancing our current networks with a keen eye toward future needs."
T-Mobile's most recent blustery salvo is nothing new. But it does lend credence to the fact that it has longer-term goals around its 600MHz acquistion than just shoring up existing capacity in rural areas for its 4G LTE network.
Engineers have spent years testing the capabilities of 5G technology while struggling to define what it is. A trade group called the 3rd Generation Partnership Project is still writing the standards. That electronics makers will use to make 5G-compatible phones and radios.