T-Mobile 5G service launches across US, minus high-speed mmWave

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T-Mobile launched its nationwide 5G network on Monday, one that covers more than 200 million people across the United States. But, customers expecting high-speed connections may be disappointed by the promotion of the carrier's 600MHz spectrum and nearly no mmWave rollout.




Announced with a press release on Monday, T-Mobile declared it has launched the "first nationwide 5G network" in the United States, with its signal providing service in more than 5,000 cities and towns, and more than 1 million square miles. It claims the network covers more than 60% of the population, with an emphasis on providing coverage in rural locations.

The carrier also takes time to call out its competitors, including Verizon and AT&T, with the former said to have enabled its 5G network to work in "parts of outdoor areas of 18 cities and in a few stadiums," while the latter's apparently works only for businesses in 21 cities and for consumers in "parts of 5 cities later this year." There is also mention of how Verizon's 5G networks are blocked by "walls, windows, and leaves," while T-Mobile's works through walls.

Further attacks are made on cost, with T-Mobile offering 5G access at the same cost as LTE, while simultaneously pointing out Verizon requires a monthly fee on top or the use of an expensive price plan, while AT&T makes it available in the most expensive plans.

At the same time, T-Mobile has announced it has started taking preorders for the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 5G and the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren, shipping December 6. The carrier is also launching its first prepaid 5G service on December 6 under the Metro brand.



T-Mobile's network is only part of the 5G package

While this does try to paint T-Mobile in a favorable light and working for regular users instead of richer customers who can afford the more expensive plans, the carrier is disingenuous with its marketing.

What is known as 5G is actually the use of two different types of connections -- standard 5G and mmWave. While the first is relatively similar to 4G LTE in terms of robustness and reach, it is also quite similar in terms of speed, with relatively little boosts in connectivity anticipated.

By contrast, mmWave is the higher-frequency bands above 6GHz, which offer potential gigabit speeds to users. However, mmWave cannot travel as far and can be easily interfered with by a wide assortment of materials, with carriers so far electing to use the technology in cities and other high population density locations. The mmWave network is what T-Mobile is addressing in Verizon's 5G implementation in regards to lack of penetration.

T-Mobile's network functions on 600MHz bands, which it claims it has reserved for 5G only, with its network to be enhanced with Sprint's 2.5GHz spectrum once the merger of the two carriers closes. This all relates to the lower-frequency and robust 5G connection, not the high-speed mmWave.

The attacks on the other carriers for limited deployments of their own 5G networks is effectively comparing T-Mobile's 5G network against mmWave. The other carriers are also anticipated to roll out general 5G coverage across the United States in the future, which will bring them in line with T-Mobile.

T-Mobile has been working on mmWave -- but is not rolling it out to a wide audience at this time. It has made similar small-scale deployments of the technology as the other carriers have over the last year.

Apple is currently anticipated to ship 5G-enabled iPhones in fall 2020, though recent analyst speculation suggests that while 5G will be offered across the board, mmWave support may only be available on a few of the new models, not all of the handsets.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 69
    Question: what differentiates “general 5G” versus LTE if the resulting speeds are comparable? 
    llamacurtis hannahwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 69
    Is 5G without mmWave really 5G?

    Isn't the speed increase... the whole point?

    The lack of the price increase for 5G suggests this is PR (to attract customers).... but could also be a shot at the politicians holding up the merger with Sprint.
    curtis hannah
  • Reply 3 of 69
    jimh2jimh2 Posts: 355member
    The speed increase has no use case yet.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 69
    jimh2 said:
    The speed increase has no use case yet.
    There’s a use case, but not one worth spending more (for the phone or service).  T-mobiles “5G” launch is (in a way) smart, even if it’s deceptive, they’ll attract customers from other providers, but without the cost of the mmWave deployment.

    Eventually, T-mobile will have to pony up the cash to deploy real 5G....

    ...but Verizon (etc) isn’t to the point in their own deployment, where they can retaliate with commercials point out their own networks superiority.

    This is a better move than AT&T 5GE, because T-mobile can argue over what 5G means, whereas AT&T’s claim was 100% B.S.
    cornchipllama
  • Reply 5 of 69
    Will be interesting to see if these challenges can be overcome by 2021 to give me a legit reason to upgrade to iPhone 12
  • Reply 6 of 69
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,673member
    Yeah, so T mobile is doing just another version of what AT&T is doing:  Branding.  Granted, T Mobile is using 5G frequencies.  But according to my understanding, speed will be no better than on LTE-A networks.  AT&T, as I'm sure most know, brands it's LTE-A service as "5Ge."   

    I live in a relatively rural area (Philly exurbs) and travel to a suburban area (end of mainline) for work.  The likelihood that I'm going to see "real" 5G anytime soon is nill.  Right now my network looks like this:  

    Home:  Usually "LTE" displays.  This likely means LTE, not LTE-A.  

    Commute:  Flip between LTE and "4G."  4G is actually their advanced 3G.  Speeds much slower on their "4G."   Also get dropped calls at times when moving between cells.  

    Work:  Flip between LTE and 5Ge, which is actually LTE-A.  At work it's generally 5Ge.  


    I've long thought about giving AT&T the boot after a decade of using them.  The issue is that Verizon isn't as good at my place of work.  At home, I'm on WIFI anyway.  Personally I'd say I'm a good 3-5 years from actual 5G.  

    llamacornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 69
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 879member
    T-Mobile will be very busy the next year or so as they have to roll out 5 G and consolidate Sprint into the network plus all the other stuff a merger implies. I will be watching but think a year from now would be more likely to consider switching from AT&T.

    AT&T has worked very hard in my area to improve coverage away from population centers and highway corridors and it shows. They used to lag Verizon (after they absorbed Alltel) badly when you were in small towns and rural areas. T-Mobile along my commuter route to a rural hospital used to be pretty bad, using AT&T roaming for at least 1/3rd to half of the route.

    I am not so concerned with increased speed as much as a more robust network. AT&T LTE is quite good except in dense urban areas where AT&T’s network is apparently swamped with more phones than they can handle.
  • Reply 8 of 69
    5G is 5G regardless. There’s a slower and a faster version, but it’s all 5G. IMHO, a more steady and useable 5G (slower) is a better start than the unsteady (difficulty penetrating, etc.) faster 5G one. 
    llamacaladanianwatto_cobraGeorgeBMacgeorgie01
  • Reply 9 of 69
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,262administrator
    n2itivguy said:
    5G is 5G regardless. There’s a slower and a faster version, but it’s all 5G. IMHO, a more steady and useable 5G (slower) is a better start than the unsteady (difficulty penetrating, etc.) faster 5G one. 
    There's also almost no point to 5G from a network speed and usability standpoint without the faster mmWave.
    fastasleepn2itivguyronnsdw2001
  • Reply 10 of 69
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,904member
    There are lots of differences between LTE and non-mmWave 5G but, as with any technology that is an unknown mix of consumer facing and backend infrastructure, real world results will largely depend on what you can't reasonably know. That's without even getting into NSA and SA.

    mmWave was never designed as a catch all option because 5G by definition is a mix of too many things. What we have are scenarios, infrastructure and the best option for each use case.

    Initially, real world performance is going to vary widely from country to country and region to region depending on factors that are beyond our control.

    We can't control which frequencies are made available for 5G for example. We also can't control what kind of 5G hardware is installed in what towers. Some performance enhancements are only available through certain suppliers.

    However, that doesn't mean the 5G services themselves lack anything so things like network slicing will be there.

    Technicalities aside, what really counts from an Apple perspective is the marketing behind 5G.

    There will be a marketing blitz in the run up to Christmas and beyond. The 2019/20 buzzword is going to be '5G' and Apple will have to ride the storm out. There will be people who decide to put off purchases. Others will wait and others will switch. As the marketing intensifies the sale for Apple will get harder as even those who claim 5G isn't relevant, begin to have doubts. That's the power of marketing.

    Apple has a lot riding on its 5G phones but the refresh is still a very long way off and 5G on handsets is already cascading down from the flagships. Long before the refresh, X50 will be a distant memory as X55 and later hit the market in large numbers. Plus Samsung, Meditek, Huawei etc.

    Things will probably peak around MWC2020 and we'll see even more 5G phones filling out the mid range.

    I mentioned scenarios earlier and to highlight that notion, Vodafone and Huawei just announced pilot 5G projects covering 32 use cases for southern Spain. They have a subsidy of 25 million euros from the EU to kick-start things. The projects vary wildly from drone assisted search and assistance for missing people, remote robotics for medical assistance, biometric access to transport systems through to port management, AR in tourism etc 

    None of it could be widely deployed over 4G
    alone.
    edited December 2019 GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 11 of 69
    normangnormang Posts: 116member
    Did I miss it somewhere? Sure MMWave is faster, if what T-Mobile is offering is faster than LTE, just not as fast as the seemingly virtually useless MMwave based on what I've seen, you have to stand under the darn transmitter to get any speed. So what are the speed differences and why wasn't it detailed in the story?
    GeorgeBMacllamaretrogusto
  • Reply 12 of 69
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,736member
    You see how the networks are planning on deceiving customers?  5G and all the marketing nonsense is all about advertising crazy-fast speeds, but now that the 5G-buzz is seeded into people, they are going to quietly remove the key (and expensive) part of 5G and try to pass it off as the real thing.

    We are years away - if not longer - from the true 5G that the providers promised.  This is no better than what LTE provides.
    watto_cobrasdw2001
  • Reply 13 of 69
    T-Mobile is giving speed increases like At&t has done. Though they appear to use newer modems that are only going to be available on any mainstream phones out next year.

    I'd like to see a 4GLTE comparison (of each carrier) with 5GE, T-Mobile 5G, and Verizon 5G before calling this out as unimportant, as its to my understanding speeds are supposed to jump from 50Mbps, 100Mbps,250Mbps,1Gbps between the 3 types, and if thats the case people are seeing at least noticeably higher speeds years before MM wave towers make it to any rural areas, no matter what carrier it is.
  • Reply 14 of 69
    payecopayeco Posts: 449member
    n2itivguy said:
    5G is 5G regardless. There’s a slower and a faster version, but it’s all 5G. IMHO, a more steady and useable 5G (slower) is a better start than the unsteady (difficulty penetrating, etc.) faster 5G one. 
    There's also almost no point to 5G from a network speed and usability standpoint without the faster mmWave.
    Today, yes, but beam forming and massive MIMO, which are part of the 5G spec and will eventually be rolled out, will allow more simultaneous users to be slotted into a block of low band spectrum, thereby increasing reliability in heavily congested areas.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 15 of 69
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,268member
    Question: what differentiates “general 5G” versus LTE if the resulting speeds are comparable? 
    Is 5G without mmWave really 5G?

    Isn't the speed increase... the whole point?

    The lack of the price increase for 5G suggests this is PR (to attract customers).... but could also be a shot at the politicians holding up the merger with Sprint.
    jimh2 said:
    The speed increase has no use case yet.
    n2itivguy said:
    5G is 5G regardless. There’s a slower and a faster version, but it’s all 5G. IMHO, a more steady and useable 5G (slower) is a better start than the unsteady (difficulty penetrating, etc.) faster 5G one. 
    There's also almost no point to 5G from a network speed and usability standpoint without the faster mmWave.
    And this is the rub! Beyond bragging rights, there’s no real use case with smartphones for the additional speed above true LTE. The telecom execs have come out and said that mm wave 5G will likely never be available outside of densely populated areas, so many/most people will never really see mm wave 5G on a regular basis anyway. If that’s the case then @"Mike Wuerthele" would seem to argue that there’s no point in 5G.

    As Avon stated, 5G is more than just faster speeds, but the general public doesn’t know the other differences and there are really no current uses for those either. 

    So here we are - all ready for a party but we don’t quite know what the party’s about, what to where, or where to go.
    watto_cobrallama
  • Reply 16 of 69
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 2,351member
    Is 5G without mmWave really 5G?

    Isn't the speed increase... the whole point?

    The lack of the price increase for 5G suggests this is PR (to attract customers).... but could also be a shot at the politicians holding up the merger with Sprint.
    5G without mmWave is probably like installing iOS 13 on iPhone 7. 
  • Reply 17 of 69
    yuck9yuck9 Posts: 112member
    T-Mobile is giving speed increases like At&t has done. Though they appear to use newer modems that are only going to be available on any mainstream phones out next year.

    I'd like to see a 4GLTE comparison (of each carrier) with 5GE, T-Mobile 5G, and Verizon 5G before calling this out as unimportant, as its to my understanding speeds are supposed to jump from 50Mbps, 100Mbps,250Mbps,1Gbps between the 3 types, and if thats the case people are seeing at least noticeably higher speeds years before MM wave towers make it to any rural areas, no matter what carrier it is.
    AT&T 5GE is slower then 4G LTE. There is a write up on it at tomshardware.com

    curtis hannahwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 69
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,600member
    T-Mobile launches 5G without 5G
    watto_cobrarepressthis
  • Reply 19 of 69
    tmaytmay Posts: 5,430member
    Benjamin Evans posted this, and it a good read about 5G, albeit long;

    https://www.ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2019/1/16/5g-if-you-build-it-we-will-fill-it


    "Really, unless you work in a few very narrow niches, you shouldn’t spend much time thinking about it."

    That statement is absolutely correct.

    "5G seems rather more interesting for AR. To clarify first, ‘AR’ today is used to describe three different things:

    1. Waving your phone at something and seeing things on the screen

    2. A wearable heads-up display (Google Glass) with no awareness of the world around you,

    3. An transparent, immersive, fully 3D color display with a sensing suite that allows it to map the room around you and recognise things and people. A bunch of companies (including Magic Leap, in which a16z is an investor) are working on this - it’s still a few years away from being a mass-market consumer product."


      "So, what’s the killer app for 5G?


      In 2000 or so, when I was a baby telecoms analyst, it seemed as though every single telecoms investor was asking ‘what’s the killer app for 3G?’ People said ‘video calling’ a lot. But 3G video calls never happened, and it turned out that the killer app for having the internet in your pocket was, well, having the internet in your pocket. Over time, video turned out to be one part of that, but not as a telco service billed by the second. Equally, the killer app for 5G is probably, well, ‘faster 4G’. Over time, that will mean new Snapchats and New YouTubes - new ways to fill the pipe that wouldn’t work today, and new entrepreneurs. It probably isn’t a revolution - or rather, it means that the revolution that’s been going on since 1995 or so keeps going for another decade or more, until we get to 6G." 


    edited December 2019 watto_cobraretrogusto
  • Reply 20 of 69
    croprcropr Posts: 1,051member
    n2itivguy said:
    5G is 5G regardless. There’s a slower and a faster version, but it’s all 5G. IMHO, a more steady and useable 5G (slower) is a better start than the unsteady (difficulty penetrating, etc.) faster 5G one. 
    There's also almost no point to 5G from a network speed and usability standpoint without the faster mmWave.
    That is incorrect.  A 5G network using the standard 4G spectrum has several advantages compared to 4G. 
    1. A lower latency.  The network reacts faster.  This is quite important for a number of applications like VOIP where reaction time is crucial. Example:  in a multiplayer shooter game a 4G connected player will have a hard time beating a 5G connected player
    2. A higher capacity due to better encoding techniques.  A 5G cell can connect more users at the same speed than a 4G network.  In crowded areas 4G networks are suffering from saturation, leading to a drop in the connection speed per user.  In such a saturated network, 5G will have roughly 3 times faster connections
    repressthis
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