T-Mobile will expand and improve its 5G network as fast as humanly possible in the next year

T-Mobile will expand and improve its 5G network as fast as humanly possible in the next year
T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray had a lot of explaining to do after his otherwise much-lauded network was brought to its knees across the nation on Monday, but now that the catastrophic outage is behind Magenta customers, it's time for Ray to go back to doing what he does best. 

Namely, hype up the "Un-carrier's" ambitious 5G expansion plans and its pretty much unrivaled resources in that essential space. If you've been keeping an eye on the very messy US wireless landscape at a time many other markets have already managed to enable meaningful upgrades over 4G LTE technology for the masses, you probably know that T-Mobile is in a privileged position after officially completing its Sprint merger.

While the current speeds of the first (and only) "nationwide" 5G network are nothing short of disappointing, oftentimes failing to surpass Verizon's 4G numbers, T-Mo has a lot of room for improvement in its long-term "full layer cake" strategy.

Nationwide is not wide enough


Already deployed in New York City, said combination of low, mid, and high-band 5G is unlikely to spread to many other places in the short run. Instead, T-Mobile is primarily focused on two out of those three 5G flavors, aiming to "get as much 600 and 2.5 rolled out as is humanly possible this year and next", according to Neville Ray.

The low-band 600 MHz spectrum is the backbone of the 5G network T-Mobile launched late last year with no help from Sprint to (theoretically) cover more than 200 million Americans. Billed as offering "nationwide" coverage right off the bat, this actually expanded to a few additional cities and states so far this year, but unsurprisingly, Magenta doesn't plan to stop there.


One way the "Un-carrier" aims to further step up its deployment efforts in the low-band space is by signing long-term lease agreements with spectrum holders (or hoarders) like Columbia Capital and Dish Network. 

While latter negotiations have repeatedly been described as difficult and even frustrating by multiple insiders and industry pundits, Ray remains a perfect gentleman, mentioning nothing about any sort of tensions between the two companies.

Although Dish's Boost Mobile acquisition seems like a done deal at last, T-Mobile's "work with Dish and the DOJ" is apparently not finished yet. Clearly, Charlie Ergen wants to squeeze as much money as possible out of the unused spectrum he's been hoarding for many years now while also looking for the best terms on its Boost buyout and subsequent T-Mobile MVNO agreement, which seems to be drawing out negotiations for a "mutually beneficial" deal.

Expect a torrent of mid-band launches in the near future


With or without Dish's help, of course, T-Mobile is pretty well-equipped in the low-band 600 MHz department, covering more than 1 million square miles with a 5G signal already as of last month.

Technically, the same can be said about the mid-band "layer" thanks to Sprint's wealth of 2.5 GHz spectrum that's now in T-Mo's possession, but said spectrum has to be integrated into and combined with the aforementioned nationwide low-band 5G network.


As Neville Ray points out, the nation's third-largest wireless service provider wasted nearly two precious years waiting for the Sprint merger to be approved and finalized, a period of time during which operators in China and South Korea gained an advantage the US may never reclaim. But instead of looking back and thinking what could have been were the merger completed earlier, T-Mo wants to regain that lost time and do as much catch-up as it can over the next year or so.

The improvements made possible by combining low and mid-band 5G technology are already obvious in markets like New York City and Philadelphia, where T-Mobile is proving you don't need mmWave to deliver speeds of several hundred megabits per second on a regular and reliable basis.

Many such upgrades are expected to happen this year, as well as in 2021, with T-Mobile fully focused on exploiting its "incredible asset base" at its maximum potential to gain an insurmountable lead of its own over Verizon and AT&T. Big Red, remember, has chosen to bet big on mmWave, failing to make a difference for a significant number of its customers, while Ma Bell's 5G strategy is all over the place, with both speeds and availability suffering as a direct consequence.

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