T-Mobile launches 600MHz 5G across the US, but no one can use it until December 6th

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T-Mobile has flipped the switch on its 5G network, setting it live over areas of the US that it says covers 200 million people. While the network is supposedly live today, no one is going to be using it until later this week: the first two phones to support it go on sale this Friday.

The “nationwide” 5G deployment relies on a slower form of 5G, using T-Mobile’s 600MHz spectrum. This “low-band” 5G essentially takes airwaves like the ones used for LTE and bundles them together with some new technology to deliver faster speeds.

T-Mobile doesn’t offer specifics on what kind of speeds you’ll see on the new network, and the actual improvements will vary a lot by location. “In some places, 600 MHz 5G will be a lot faster than LTE. In others, customers won’t see as much difference,” a T-Mobile spokesperson tells The Verge.

Because T-Mobile is relying on LTE-like spectrum — which travels relatively far — the carrier is able to deploy it over a wide swath of the country. It’s the first major wireless carrier to claim nationwide 5G coverage.

What T-Mobile isn’t claiming are nationwide offerings for the fastest form of 5G: millimeter wave (mmWave). mmWave relies on much faster airwaves to deliver much faster speeds, but the signal doesn’t travel very far and is easily blocked by almost anything in its path. T-Mobile has already started to deploy mmWave in a few cities, but there’s no word today on whether that’s expanded. mmWave deployments are likely to stay confined to densely populated areas, like cities and sports stadiums, because of its physical limitations.

On Friday, T-Mobile will begin selling the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren Edition for $899.99 and the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G for $1299.99. Both are capable of connecting to its 600MHz 5G network, and all T-Mobile and Metro plans include 5G access. The phones do not support mmWave.

The two phones do have some ability to get faster speeds down the road: T-Mobile says they both support mid-band spectrum that’s currently owned by Sprint. If the merger between the two companies closes, T-Mobile will redeploy that spectrum as part of its 5G network, further speeding up these phones’ connections.

All of the major US carriers have been racing to launch 5G this year. At this point, they’ve all deployed it in some form or another, although it’s mostly been in select locations and with select technologies. The next notable deployment is supposed to come from AT&T, which plans to launch its own low-band 5G this month, albeit only in five cities.

To promote the launch, T-Mobile made this very goofy ad featuring its current and future CEOs as well as its CTO:

Comments

Lol the ‘OnePlus Mclaren 5G Super LTE :)’ phone doesn’t even list 5G under the specs.

I’ll take this type of implementation over mmWave any day of the week. I don’t live in a densely populated area where that type of technology will be put in place (read: the largest cities in the country, probably for the first few years), and there are so many current failings with how limited it is that it’s hard to imagine its usefulness.

The hype around 5G is going to die pretty quick if there aren’t rapid advancements to overcome the signal blockage of mmWave and the difficult implementation over wide areas.

They’ll sell you a "booster" that you plug into your network to make it work inside. That way you can pay for it twice!

T-Mobile already supports wifi calling on its phones. You already have the booster.

He’s talking about 5G data speeds, not calling.

rapid advancements to overcome the signal blockage of mmWave

There will not. It’s physics: higher frequencies cannot penetrate obstacles.

I’m aware, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they somehow find a workaround at some point. There’s lots of smart engineers out there who have done the previously unthinkable.

There is no workaround.

Thank you for repeating what was previously said.

And as I said, I do not discount the possibility that there could be a workaround of some kind that does not change the existing technology but perhaps supplements it or involves engineering access points in a different manner to better direct signals somehow.

This is just physics. The "technology" in question is a radio wave frequency. You can’t make it behave differently without changing the frequency.

OK, for the third time, I am not referring to the technology behind radio wave frequencies. I am referring to the engineering advancements of potentially improving the efficiency of access points, such as (just for an example) finding ways to create smaller/cheaper ones or more easily installable ones so there is more coverage and it is more financially feasible to install it for better coverage. Telecos do this constantly. To repeat, for the third time, I am not referring to changing the physics of radio wave frequencies.

I’m getting the impression some of you are just responding for internet credibility at this point, because you quoted the word "technology" and proceeded to define it after I literally just said I was not referring to that.

With all due respect, no one is responding just for Internet credibility.

Installing more mmWave cell sites is not a "workaround" to the physics as implied in your first, second, third, and fourth messages. It’s just what carriers have to do, now and in the future. It will certainly get easier with improvements in the radios and placement techniques, of course. The point of all these replies is that this has applied to every generation of wireless technology on every spectrum band, and it’s harder than ever on mmWave because of the physics.

Installing more mmWave cell sites is not a "workaround" to the physics as implied in your first, second, third, and fourth messages.

Please point to any part of my comments, without taking them out of context, where I ever implied any sort of change or modification to physics, which I am well aware are cemented in science and not changing. I don’t know why people insist on having a straw man argument.

It will certainly get easier with improvements in the radios and placement techniques, of course.

So literally exactly what I just said? Got it.

The point of all these replies is that this has applied to every generation of wireless technology on every spectrum band, and it’s harder than ever on mmWave because of the physics.

Which was the entire point of my first comment. Read the second paragraph. My goodness.

Please point to any part of my comments, without taking them out of context, where I ever implied any sort of change or modification to physics, which I am well aware are cemented in science and not changing. I don’t know why people insist on having a straw man argument.

"I’m aware, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they somehow find a workaround at some point. There’s lots of smart engineers out there who have done the previously unthinkable."

This seemed to imply a single, unexpected engineering "workaround" to the physics beyond improved buildout techniques, beamforming, higher density, new thinking surrounding cell boundaries, carrier aggregation, etc. I’m open to the idea that we interpreted your messaging incorrectly, though, as you appear to be grounded in reason.

I don’t think there will be any single magic bullet that moves us beyond the physical challenges of mmWave spectrum, but I could be wrong. I think there’ll be numerous minor revisions/releases of the 5G standard like LTE had, and each will have small tweaks that help slightly based on what the carriers learn as they build out the networks.

Okay, but you do understand that the radios are pretty much irrelevant when the frequencies can’t even penetrate glass, right? It doesn’t matter how advanced the radios are, they can’t overcome the basic physics of the spectrum being used.

The workaround of which you speak is using a lower frequency that penetrates through structures better, like, say… 600 MHZ.

Yeah, this (the 600 Mhz) is basically 5G for the 99% of scenarios. mmWave is basically "you lucked out on which street corner your bus stop is at. Enjoy faster speeds for the next few minutes."

The workaround is pretty much just more towers/sources, as usual.

It isn’t though. Even if you absolutely blanket an area in mmWave, the signal would be stopped by any solid object. There is not a way around this

Instead of trying to break physics, it’s easier to understand business of cellular coverage: Almost everyone operates multiple bands, some bands are better than others at different things. All of those bands can be 5G or whatever.

Instead of trying to go through walls, mmWave advancements have been mainly trying to use beamforming to bounce the signal off walls and direct it to phones instead of just broadcasting a signal and not doing anything active about it (aside from upping the power).

Doesn’t work that way. When the signal hits the wall it will dissipate/be ‘absorbed’ by the wall, not bounce off

I’ve often wondered if this wasn’t part of the whole plan when AT&T bought DirecTV. Those dishes are actually antennas. Point them not at the sky… but towards a tower, maybe we have some better range here.

Many old 90s era dishes are used precisely for that… a big WiFi antenna.

You can get 5G in Boise and Sioux Falls, so super dense isn’t the only qualifier. I’m assuming there’s tax incentives?

Are they taking away LTE Spectrum to launch this 5G?

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