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T-Mobile Plans to Roll Out 5G Capability by 2020

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T- just spent $8 billion on 600 Hz spectrum. Unsurprisingly, it’s going to use it for 5G.

Leave it to T-, the rebellious self-coined “Un-carrier,” to make waves in the 5G space. On Tuesday, the Deutsche Telekom-owned operator pledged to launch nationwide 5G network in three years, with the aim of completing a rollout by 2020.

T-Mobile said it will deploy high-brand, high-speed 5G in select areas, but that the low-frequency spectrum it recently acquired — 45 percent of 600 MHz in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, to the tune of $8 billion — would form the bulk of its 5G network. That’s in contrast to its competitors, which have experimented with high-frequency spectrum that can deliver speedy — but geographically constrained — 5G coverage.

“This positions T-Mobile to deliver a 5G network that offers both breadth and depth nationwide,” T-Mobile chief technology officer Neville Ray said in a blog post.

For the most part, Verizon, AT&T, and others have turned to “millimeter wave” technology, which transmits over airwaves with narrower-than-average wavelengths. They occupy frequencies in the 30 to 300 GHz range — high enough to avoid interference from surrounding signals, but too high to pass through solid barriers like walls, concrete, or even the leaves of trees.

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Those limitations have carriers like Verizon investing in “fixed” 5G — high-speed wireless meant to deliver broadband in the home, rather than to mobile .

T-Mobile’s 600 Hz spectrum won’t deliver the speeds the competition can achieve, but it will cover a broader swath of the country. And it will have access to the airwaves as soon as this year, which could give it a further advantage.

“We’re going to run at it and run hard,” Ray told USA Today in an interview. “We’re saying that you’re going to see it at T-Mobile first.”

T-Mobile is far from the only one chasing 5G. Verizon announced 5G trials in 11 U.S. markets this year, following a partnership with Samsung, Qualcomm, and others that saw 5G routers installed in homes.

And AT&T said it will begin streaming DirecTV over 5G to some residential customers, and recently announced “5G Evolution,” a series of high-speed connectivity trials in 20 major cities.

In its announcement on Tuesday, T-Mobile sought to emphasize 5G’s other benefits.

“We expect to see a whole class of new applications and solutions that will be built for nationwide 5G,” Ray said in a statement. 5G’s low latency could help self-driving cars exchange sensor data and Internet of Things (IoT) devices save battery. and augmented reality stand to benefit from its reliability. “[Today’s] applications will just work better and faster,” Ray added.

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