T-Mobile is lighting up what it says is the world’s first 600 MHz LTE network in Cheyenne, Wyoming. T-Mobile 600 MHz spectrum, initially at least, will target rural areas where the company traditionally has been weak.
The networks are based on spectrum T-Mobile won at auction earlier this year. T-Mobile and its partners plan an aggressive rollout. “We knew this spectrum would be key for covering wide areas, providing bandwidth in hard-to-reach places, augmenting capacity and improving data speeds, so we began testing and readying 600 MHz network infrastructure equipment and software long before the incentive auction was over,” said Rajeev Suri, President and Chief Executive Officer of Nokia, one of those partners, in a press release.
T-Mobile 600 MHz Plans
The plan is to deploy the network in targeted rural and otherwise underserved markets during the next six months. T-Mobile will deploy in Wyoming, northwest Oregon, west Texas, southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, western North Dakota, Maine, coastal North Carolina, central Pennsylvania, central Virginia and eastern Washington. The company claims that the buildout normally would take two years to do.
The deployments, combined with other network upgrades, will increase T-Mobile’s coverage from 315 million to 321 million people by the end of the year. The rural challenge is clear: All of those markets are expected to only add about 6 million potential subscribers. Thus, an inexpensive approach must be found to serve such areas. T-Mobile, clearly, thinks it has done so with the 600 MHz spectrum, which has excellent propagation characteristics, thereby requiring fewer towers.
Qualcomm is a vendor to the project. Samsung and LG will release phones that use this spectrum during the fourth quarter. T-Mobile is working with the FCC and broadcasters to clear spectrum.
The 600 MHz spectrum that T-Mobile won will be split between LTE and 5G. In May, T-Mobile announced a nationwide 5G rollout in 2020 using some of that spectrum. The carrier is taking a different approach than Verizon and AT&T, who are focusing on mid-range and high frequency multimedia bandwidth for 5G. Those initiatives will start with fixed deployments.