Lately, T-Mobile has been looking less and less like the Un-carrier it styled itself as in the past, and much more like A Carrier. To that end, the company made a couple of announcements today: a new 5G coverage milestone, and that CEO Mike Sievert will be delivering a CES keynote in a spot recently occupied by Verizon.
The Consumer Technology Association and T-Mobile made the keynote announcement today, with (you guessed it) 5G as the topic of the hour. It’s been the topic of that particular keynote slot in a couple of recent years, with Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg whipping up the 5G hype machine and covering roughly the same talking points in 2019 and earlier this year.
Sievert will take the microphone from Vestberg at the start of what’s likely to be a pivotal year for 5G in the US. Verizon will be starting to deploy the C-band spectrum in which it has invested heavily. No doubt, Sievert hopes to shine the spotlight on T-Mobile’s relative spectrum advantage, thanks to its Sprint acquisition last year.
He’ll also highlight milestones like the one T-Mobile announced today: 305 million people are covered by the company’s slower “extended range” 5G and 165 million covered by its faster, mid-band “ultra capacity” 5G network. With a little less than half a year to go, T-Mobile is driving toward its goal to cover 200 million people with ultra capacity 5G by the end of 2021.
In contrast, Verizon, which has to wait for current tenants to clear off its new C-band spectrum, expects to cover 100 million people with mid-band 5G in early 2022. Sievert probably won’t discuss the network’s bare-minimum efforts to uphold its merger commitments and help position Dish as a competitor, even though the deal is responsible for delivering T-Mobile its valuable mid-band spectrum and its relative “lead” in 5G, but I digress.
T-Mobile is eagerly seizing the moment as Verizon and AT&T work to get C-band deployed, but the more time it spends in the spotlight, the harder it will be to maintain its cool, underdog image. In the meantime, we can definitely expect to see less red and a lot more magenta on consumer tech’s biggest stage early next year.