It's no big secret that the 5G wireless landscape in the US is still more than a little messy even after all three major carriers have announced "nationwide" rollouts of their next-gen cellular technologies, and unsurprisingly, the imminent arrival of Apple's iPhone 12
family is indirectly causing further confusion as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are ramping up their already aggressive and hyperbolic promotion.
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In these types of situations, you'd normally expect the truth to lie somewhere in the middle, but for the umpteenth time in recent months, a number of analysts seem to fully agree with T-Mobile's assessment
of both the industry's current state of affairs and its mid to long-term outlook.
T-Mobile is undoubtedly the best carrier for your iPhone 12
Although mid-band speeds are in theory considerably lower than what high-band (aka mmWave) can deliver, the former type of spectrum arguably strikes the best balance between coverage and speed of the three 5G flavors available in the US right now.
The beauty of the "Un-carrier's" layer cake approach
is that it combines all three of those main technologies to provide low-band 5G service in more than 7,500 cities and towns across 1.3
million square miles for a total of 260 million people while vastly improving download speeds in places where mid-band integration is possible
and cooking up a few mmWave rollouts of its own for even higher speeds in small parts of select metropolitan areas.
If you want to hear specific numbers, T-Mobile
's mid-band 5G spectrum is apparently capable of delivering 300 Mbps averages and up to 1 Gbps peaks. That's roughly seven and a half times faster than today's 4G LTE technology (on average), and according to CEO Mike Sievert
, about 100 million people will be able to squeeze those numbers from their hot new iPhones or Android handsets by the end of 2020 without worrying about obstacles like trees or buildings.
The best Verizon and AT&T can do is try to close the gap
If 100 million sounds like a lot of Americans to cover so soon after T-Mobile merged with Sprint
, you might be amused to hear industry pundits are just as surprised and impressed as all of us by this "significantly higher" goal than their original expectations.
It's important to point out that the huge amount of spectrum acquired from Sprint is only one piece of T-Mobile's much larger 5G puzzle, with an array of lease agreements signed in the last few months to help consolidate an already massive lead over Verizon and AT&T in mid-band holdings.
Following the likes of Dish and Columbia Capital, T-Mo is aiming to strike similar deals with a company called Tstar. Meanwhile, the competition will try to close the gap in mid-band resources at a fast-approaching C-band auction, but even though Big Red is widely expected to substantially outbid Magenta, catching up to the early 5G market leader seems virtually impossible.
Instead, both Verizon and AT&T are forecasted to start closing the "fast 5G" gap in 18 to 36 months... at best, and that's pretty much it. While it's rarely wise to make long-term predictions in such a volatile industry, analysts simply see no way for T-Mobile's supremacy in both 5G
speeds and coverage to be challenged anytime soon. Possibly, ever.