There's no slowdown in sight for T-Mobile's industry-leading 5G expansion efforts

There's no slowdown in sight for T-Mobile's industry-leading 5G expansion efforts
T-Mobile's top executives are wasting no opportunity to hype up the "Un-carrier's" existing nationwide 5G network, as well as their ambitious plans to vastly improve the overall unimpressive speeds accessible today by integrating Sprint's superior mid-band spectrum.

The latest such opportunity came at an investor conference on Tuesday, when President of Technology Neville Ray pounced on the chance to emphasize T-Mo's incredible rate of network advancement in a tricky pandemic "environment." Instead of slowing down due to the ongoing public health crisis and an increasingly unstable economic climate, Magenta is actually "ramping up" its efforts to combine low, mid, and high-band 5G technology in various places.

T-Mobile got a head start on its Sprint integration work


The so-called 5G "layer cake" blending all three flavors of next-gen connectivity for maximum coverage and the highest possible download speeds is already being served in New York City. Meanwhile, T-Mobile somehow managed to deploy mid-band 5G in Philadelphia mere weeks after officially closing its Sprint merger on top of the low-band signal available around those parts for several months before that complementary rollout was possible.

In case you're still wondering how all of that materialized so quickly, Ray is ready to spill the beans, confirming the groundwork was laid well in advance of the long-delayed April 1 merger completion. In fact, T-Mo started preparing for phase two of its all-inclusive 5G rollout strategy last year, and everything is going according to plan so far.


Said plan, by the way, also includes launches based on the blazing fast mmWave technology Verizon made the core of its 5G network. Unlike Big Red, though, Magenta doesn't adhere to the "5G is synonymous with mmWave" dogma, viewing this simply as "an augment" to low and mid-band spectrum. That's probably for the best, of course, as mmWave coverage remains a huge problem Verizon is unlikely to find a solution to anytime soon.

The only solution is to waste money, time, and resources now to deliver minor improvements over 4G LTE speeds on a large scale in the short run, whereas T-Mobile plans to spend up to a whopping $60 billion over the next five years to gradually upgrade the existing low-band foundation of its 5G network and ultimately make the aforementioned "layer cake" a nationwide delicacy.

To put that number in perspective, Dish has repeatedly estimated its costs of building a wide-scale 5G network from scratch at around $10 billion of late, which is starting to sound less and less realistic by the day.

Other huge numbers ahead... and a possible weakness


Granted, Sprint's replacement may have set its initial goals much lower than T-Mobile, which covers roughly two and a half times the footprint of Verizon's entire mmWave 5G network with its mid-band 5G signal in Philadelphia alone. Of course, that comparison is not quite fair given the inherent limitations of mmWave radios, which travel on considerably shorter distances compared to their mid-band counterparts.

Still, it's hard to view T-Mobile's expansion efforts as anything short of remarkable when the company aims to boost its macro cell tower total from 65,000 prior to merging with Sprint to 85,000 in the relatively near future. And that latter number is taking a whole bunch of redundant Sprint cell sites set to be deactivated into consideration, mind you.


As far as mid-band 2.5GHz radios are concerned, Magenta's plan is to install the technology on around 30,000 towers in "major metropolitan areas quickly", which is perhaps the most impressive number of them all, but curiously enough, mum's the word right now on the mobile network operator's intentions for small cell expansions. 

That suggests the mmWave layer will remain T-Mobile's weak point going forward, which could prove a real problem if Verizon cracks the low and mid-band equations. Then again, that's a big if, giving T-Mo plenty of hypothetical time to continue beefing up its mmWave portfolio.

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