T-Mobile announced that it has achieved the global first live network 5G data transmission using low-band spectrum in partnership with Nokia, saying it will now be able to "blanket the country with broad 5G in 2020".
The trials, which took place in Spokane, Washington, showed that a single cell tower will be able to transmit 5G signals across hundreds of square miles. Using 600MHz spectrum will therefore mean regional areas will also have access to its 5G network, T-Mobile said, as signals reach farther than higher-band frequencies.
"The Un-carrier is focused on delivering 5G for everyone everywhere, while the other guys focus on 5G for the few -- reaching just a few people in small areas of a handful of cities," T-Mobile CEO John Legere said.
"We're building truly mobile 5G so everyone can benefit from the 5G revolution. And with Sprint, we'll be able to supercharge 5G with incredible capacity and speed."
Low-band spectrum is also able to penetrate buildings and is unaffected by line-of-sight issues that plague millimetre-wave (mmWave) 5G deployments.
"T-Mobile is the only wireless provider building 5G on multiple spectrum bands, including low-band and millimetre-wave, to ensure the benefits of 5G can reach everyone, and together with Sprint, the New T-Mobile will have critical mid-band spectrum to enable broad AND deep nationwide coverage," T-Mobile added.
The carrier's 600MHz extended range 4G LTE is already live in over 1,500 areas across the US and in Puerto Rico.
Speaking with ZDNet in September, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said the merger with Sprint will mean a faster deployment of 5G across the United States.
"The combination of T-Mobile and Sprint can put 5G really on the map in the US marketplace way faster that either company could do on their own, or AT&T and Verizon could do on their own quite frankly," Ray told ZDNet.
While T-Mobile is focused on the 600MHz spectrum band, and Sprint is rolling out 5G across its 2.5GHz holdings -- and Verizon and AT&T both focus on mmWave spectrum -- Ray said his company also holds spectrum in the 28GHz and 39GHz mmWave bands.
"You can't deliver a broad 5G experience with just millimetre wave; we've talked for much of the last 18 months about a multi-band 5G strategy, so millimetre wave for urban pockets, then mid- and low-band spectrum for everything from faster smartphones services and enhanced mobile broadband to broad coverage for IoT services," he said.
"A big part again of the Sprint transaction is this combination of multi-band spectrum assets that allows us to go after the full spectrum of 5G opportunities and use cases."
"That's all about getting 5G down on top of this 600MHz layer, so the gear we're deploying now is 5G capable, and we'll have the software capability on 5G as we look to the latter part of the year in '19, devices coming on in '19, and so 5G is finally starting to become very real. Our goal and objective is to build nationwide coverage by 2020," he said.
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With Sprint choosing its 5G markets of Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York City, Phoenix, and Kansas City while T-Mobile targets Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, and Dallas, Ray said the carrier will soon announce more of its 30 5G deployment cities.
T-Mobile last month announced adding 1.6 million net customers during Q3, with earnings of $795 million on revenue of $10.8 billion, up 8 percent from a year ago.
As of September 30, T-Mobile had 77.2 million customers, with its 4G LTE providing coverage to 324 million people. It is targeting coverage of 325 million people by the end of 2018.
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Marcelo Claure, executive chairman of the board of Sprint Corporation, said the combined company has the spectrum assets and financial strength to move the US ahead in 5G.
T-Mobile's postpaid churn also came in at 1.02 percent, a record third-quarter low for the company.
5G access will arrive faster and be broader under a Sprint-T-Mobile merger, according to CTO Neville Ray, who also said talks with the FCC and Department of Justice have been 'very positive' on the transaction.
Cisco's upgraded ASR 9000 and IOS XR operating system is aimed at helping carriers prepare their mobile networks for a 5G launch.