T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here’s everything you need to know

T-Mobile’s low-band 5G network is live “nationwide” on its 600MHz spectrum.  It’s the first “layer” of what its CTO Neville Ray calls a “5G layer cake” comprised of widespread low-band 600MHz, the company’s midband 2.5GHz holdings, and high-band mmWave at the top. Compatible devices are already widely available, and more will become available throughout 2020.

But wait, what is 5G, anyway? The fifth generation of wireless networks, or 5G, has been nearly a decade in the making, and it’s finally becoming a reality. Promising dramatically faster speeds, instantaneous communication, and the ability to network everything, 5G has incredible potential. With 600MHz 5G already nationwide, most T-Mobile customers already have access to some form of 5G — albeit slower than T-Mobile’s competitors, who are using mmWave.

T-Mobile says it plans to work on it’s mid- and high-band deployments in earnest in 2020. Here’s everything you need to know about T-Mobile’s 5G rollout.

T-Mobile 5G availability: Major U.S. cities

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Mobile 5G

Customers pay no extra for 5G, and still have unlimited data. All you need is a compatible device and access to a tower on T-Mobile’s network. This is different than the other carriers, which charge for access to 5G networks.

T-Mobile has built a significant portion of its 5G network using its 600MHz spectrum. The company has long maintained that at a nationwide scale, high-band 5G isn’t feasible. As part of its merger with Sprint, T-Mobile does have plans to “refarm” (the industry’s word for repurposing) Sprint’s vast midband 2.5GHz holdings for 5G use, but that will be a gradual process. The same applies to the company’s high-band multi-GHz mmWave rollout, simply because of the scale and the need for thousands of mini-towers across a city.

As a result, T-Mobile customers will find themselves on the 600MHz network more often than not. It’s currently available in about 5,000 cities and towns, including many rural locations. People in urban areas will increasingly be able to connect to the company’s mid-band spectrum. According to Ray, peak speeds of 600Mbps are already being delivered to Philadelphia customers.

Small pockets of cities (think blocks) will deliver up to 1Gbps 5G speeds. Digital Trends has tested Verizon’s mmWave 5G network in Chicago, and the experience should be similar on T-Mobile’s mmWave network.

So what can you expect? In areas covered by T-Mobile’s 600MHz 5G network, you should see speeds regularly around 200 to 300Mbps, which for many rural areas is a massive improvement over LTE. The difference might be less noticeable in suburban areas where cellular networks are more robust.

Many suburban areas and cities will have access to T-Mobile’s new 2.5GHz 5G network. Here, as we noted, speeds are already surpassing 500Mbps, and will likely improve over the coming months and years. Those lucky enough to live in urban areas will have access to mmWave, and will regularly see speeds surpassing 1Gbps.

Are you a Sprint customer? We didn’t forget about you. Read on for what you can expect.

Merger with Sprint

Many industry analysts thought that T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint would primarily be a net benefit for long-suffering Sprint customers. Sprint has a less-than-stellar network to put it mildly, and T-Mobile got to work shortly after the merger to address this problem.

While T-Mobile customers are benefiting from the hordes of mid-band spectrum held by the company, Sprint customers are also benefiting from T-Mobile’s far more expansive network. The company already opened up its LTE network to Sprint customers, significantly improving coverage. If you have the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G smartphone, T-Mobile is also opening up its 600MHz 5G network to these customers as we speak.

That is welcome news, for sure. But with the merger done, expect T-Mobile to roll out mid- and high-band 5G aggressively. The company commands a massive amount of spectrum, and Ray and others have long maintained that the moment the merger was complete, it would work quickly to merge the networks.

According to multiple statements, the whole process is expected to take about two years and will triple 5G capacity.

“By 2024, the new T-Mobile network will have approximately double the total capacity and triple the total 5G capacity of T-Mobile and Sprint combined, with 5G speeds four to six times what they could achieve on their own,” T-Mobile said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

T-Mobile is vowing not to raise prices as a result of the merger, with former T-Mobile CEO John Legere saying that the company would not raise rates for three years. The merger could also result in lower prices.

5G Hardware

There are a variety of 5G phones and devices available from T-Mobile. We’ve listed those currently available from the carrier at the moment. Fair warning: most are pretty expensive.

  • V60 ThinQ 5G$800 ($33.44/month)
  • V60 ThinQ 5G Dual Screen$900 ($37.50/month)
  • OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren$900 ($37.50/month)
  • Galaxy S20 5G$1,000 ($41.67/month)
  • Galaxy S20 Plus 5G$1,200 ($50.00/month)
  • Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G$1,300 ($54.17/month)
  • Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G$1,400 ($58.34/month)

Updated on May 6, 2020: Details for Sprint customers, new 5G information, and hardware.

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