While Sprint just announced that it’s going to launch its 5G network in May, T-Mobile pushed back its full 5G network launch date until the second half of 2019 because 5G phones are not ready, as reported by CNET.
CNET spoke with T-Mobile’s chief technical officer about the delay and found these details. With this delay, T-Mobile will now fall behind Verizon, Sprint and possibly even AT&T in bringing their 5G networks live and useable to consumers.
Same time last year, T-Mobile indicated that it would have 30 cities ready for 5G by then end of 2018, with 5G phones launching in early 2019. This plan, however, changed because 5G phones are not ready. Even though there’s Samsung Galaxy S10 5G smartphone, there aren’t enough smartphone options for consumers.
Furthermore, currently, there aren’t enough phones yet that fully support T-Mobile 5G network, the wireless company told CNET. The initial wave of 5G phones don’t take advantage of the airwaves the wireless company used to launch its 5G network, and without the support, T-Mobile’s 5G network is rendered unusable.
T-Mobile is still launching 5G millimeter wave installations, thus the company isn’t entirely delaying its 5G launch until later this year, as clarified by a T-Mobile spokesperson. There won’t be too many locations that support millimeter wave, and because of the shorter range, the reach of T-Mobile’s 5G network will be limited initially. This is why T-Mobile’s CTO told CNET that despite mmWave 5G phones launching currently, wide support for T-Mobile 5G network isn’t available yet, and the company has no plans to promote its 5G network until later this year. Even though Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G will run on the company’s network, it won’t fully support it, thus not marketing 5G aspects too much until later this year.
Sprint announced the launch of their 5G network that will start in May, and just a few hours later, T-Mobile announces delays. Both companies are trying to get their merger approved by US regulators, arguing that the merger is necessary to quickly deploy a strong 5G network across the US. T-Mobile 5G deployment wasn’t the entire issue here, it’s just that the company wasn’t able to convince its mobile phone partners to build the antennas necessary for its network right away. It will happen, but it hasn’t happened just yet.
Update, 2/25/19, 7:17 PM ET: This report has been updated with Twitter statement and information from T-Mobile denying CNET’s initial report that their 5G network has been delayed. There is no delay.