In April of this year, T-Mobile wrote a big check in the amount of $8 billion for new low-band spectrum to help improve its wireless network. The wireless carrier said the network is now online. The 600MHz spectrum is currently being used in a “cluster site” in Cheyenne, Wyoming. This location is the first place in the entire country to start benefitting from the newly acquired spectrum.
Here’s where things get interesting. Normally when carriers acquire spectrum, it takes them quite a while before they begin deploying for commercial use. In T-Mobile’s case, to they’re going all out at a thousand percent.
Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s Chief Technology Officer, said that the rollout is a “massive milestone” for T-Mobile, and one that should “materially close” T-Mobile’s existing coverage gap with Verizon “by the end of the year.”
For example, when Verizon acquired the 700MHz spectrum from the FCC in the 2008 auction, it wasn’t until 2010 when the company began turning on the network. T-Mobile purchase in April and is already making progress. To call this a “massive milestone” would be unjust because it’s only August.
The 600MHz spectrum will be a game changer for T-Mobile that will help it improve its network coverage. We know that cell networks operate on different bands, and the lower the frequency, the better the coverage. Lower-frequencies are able to travel faster and to a further distance.
As you can see from the above map obtained from the FCC filing, there’s a big difference in increased coverage for many folks. The carrier is planning out coverage improvement with the 600MHz sites in West Teas, Southwest Kansas, Northwest Oregon, Wyoming, Oklahoma panhandle, Maine, West North Dakota, Central Pennsylvania, Coastal North Carolina, Eastern Washington, and Central Virginia.
The only downside for T-Mobile is that customer experience will not improve overnight. The 600MHz frequency isn’t currently being used for any LTE in the world, so there are currently no devices that support it. Neville Ray did say that Samsung and LG devices will be some of the first to provide support by the end of the year for the 600MHz spectrum. As more providers hop onboard with T-Mobile, more devices will be released with the 600MHz compatibility.
Here’s even more better news. All of the 600MHz radio that’s being deployed right now will be compatible with the 5G standard when it’s finalized next year. T-Mobile has already confirmed and committed to deploying a 5G network by the end of the decade.
All we can say is that T-Mobile has really stepped up their game. The company is now on-par with Verizon’s coverage, perhaps even better. With more deployed sites in the near future, the company may pass both Verizon and AT&T. Right now, it’s equal or better in terms of download and upload speeds, but lags behind in coverage for subscribers.