T-Mobile quietly makes yet another 5G milestone official

T-Mobile quietly makes yet another 5G milestone official
It's no big secret that T-Mobile has a massive competitive advantage over Verizon and AT&T when it comes to 5G infrastructure and more specifically 5G coverage, but to our knowledge, the "Un-carrier" never detailed how the theoretical availability of its latest wireless standard translates into reality until very recently.

While the second-largest mobile network operator in the US (by subscribers) likes to throw such astonishing numbers around as 125 million people covered by an Ultra Capacity 5G signal or 287 million people already capable of accessing Extended Range 5G technology, the real-world head count of actual 5G users is obviously far less impressive.

We're talking "north of 10 million" customers, according to none other than Magenta's CEO on the heels of last week's multiple major Analyst Day announcements.

A remarkable feat or a slow start to a new era?

Although Mike Sievert didn't so much as blink when offering that no doubt candid answer to a direct question from Bloomberg reporter Alix Steel in an interview that flew under our radar until today, it's easy to understand why the 10 million+ figure was not mentioned among T-Mo's greatest accomplishments either at the end of last year or the beginning of 2021.

After surpassing AT&T in terms of customer numbers during Q2 2020, T-Mobile jumped to a grand total of 102 million wireless subscribers in Q4, slowly but steadily closing the gap to Verizon's trophy. "North of 10 million" is roughly 10 percent of that, which certainly doesn't sound like a mind-blowing conversion rate more than a year after launching "nationwide" 5G connectivity.

Then again, it's not like Verizon is touting nine-digit 5G subscriber figures at the moment either. In fact, Big Red merely followed Magenta's nationwide 5G example a few months ago, failing to threaten its arch-rival's coverage supremacy in any meaningful way for the time being.

Meanwhile, Verizon did mention (in passing) last week that the sales of its 5G Ultra Wideband-compatible smartphones had already exceeded 10 million units, which is not quite the same thing as having 10M+ 5G customers. The Ultra Wideband network, mind you, is based on blazing fast mmWave technology that, however, doesn't travel very far, also having trouble penetrating walls and other obstacles, which generally results in horrific availability numbers in most "nationwide" reports and tests.

If you build it (right), they will come

At the end of the day, it feels like T-Mobile should be celebrating its 10 million 5G subscriber milestone rather than burying it in interviews tackling a multitude of other topics, ranging from the company's broadband goals to that impressive 200 million coverage target set for Ultra Capacity 5G by the end of 2021. 

Once again, that's theoretical coverage, made possible with the help of Sprint's former mid-band spectrum, which Verizon and AT&T are desperately trying to catch up to by throwing tens of billions of dollars at the FCC. Even so, that 200 million number is equal to Big Red's "nationwide" 5G availability total at the moment, which says a lot about T-Mo's industry supremacy when you consider the "Un-carrier" is obviously gunning for much higher Extended Range (aka low-band) 5G figures.


No wonder Sievert believes his company has "all of the assets" it needs to achieve and maintain durable and sustainable 5G leadership "through the entire 5G era", aiming to offer both the best value and the best network at the same time for the first time in the history of the US wireless industry. 

Advertising hyperbole aside, it's definitely hard to argue with the value point shortly after T-Mo launched yet another one of its always popular free line deals for new and existing subscribers, not to mention those two unrivaled new 5G plans. In other words, even if 10 million doesn't feel like a lot right now, something tells us the number will grow incredibly quickly.

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