T-Mobile said today that it had completed “the world’s first 5G data transmission on low-band spectrum (600 MHz) on a live commercial network” in Spokane, Wash. According to the company, a single 5G 600 MHz cell tower will be able to cover “hundreds of square miles.” That’s dramatically greater coverage in comparison with towers deployed in the millimeter wave band, which according to T-Mobile, cover less than a square mile.

The broad coverage areas that 600 MHz can support will enable T-Mobile to deploy the first nationwide 5G U.S. network, the company said – a goal the company expects to achieve in 2020. Tellingly, however, the T-Mobile announcement today says nothing about the speeds achieved.

5G 600 MHz Vs. Other Bands
The reference to millimeter wave deployment is T-Mobile’s jibe at AT&T and Verizon, both of whom are initially deploying 5G in millimeter wave spectrum bands above 24 GHz. The reason those carriers have focused on that band is that the band includes broad swaths of spectrum that can support higher speeds in comparison with lower-frequency spectrum. AT&T, for example, has said that it has achieved mobile speeds of 1 Gbps using millimeter wave spectrum

In comparison, T-Mobile and Sprint have said that if allowed to merge they would be able to achieve average mobile 5G speeds of 450 Mbps nationwide and 100 Mbps to 90% of Americans using Sprint’s mid-band spectrum holdings. Sprint has a wide swath of spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band throughout a large portion of the U.S. The speeds that T-Mobile will be able to deliver using its own low-band 600 MHz spectrum likely are lower.

Of course, 5G isn’t just about data speeds. Standards for 5G also call for other capabilities — notably substantially lower latency in comparison with existing cellular networks — and lower latency should be achievable in any 5G spectrum band.

It’s also worth noting that T-Mobile has the opportunity to obtain millimeter wave spectrum in the 28 GHz auction currently underway and in the upcoming 24 GHz auction and that both AT&T and Verizon have said they expect to deploy 5G in lower-band spectrum, all of which suggests that all carrier 5G networks eventually may look quite similar, with 5G operating in multiple spectrum bands

Nevertheless, T-Mobile CEO John Legere, quoted in today’s press release, was his usual boastful self. “The Un-carrier is focused on delivering 5G for everyone everywhere, while the other guys focus on 5G for the few – reaching just a few people in small areas of a handful of cities,” said Leger. “We’re building truly mobile 5G so everyone can benefit from the 5G revolution. And with Sprint, we’ll be able to supercharge 5G with incredible capacity and speed!”

T-Mobile’s news today is the latest example of the ongoing PR war carriers are waging over who was, or plan’s to be, first with an ever-broadening array of 5G capabilities. Verizon said it would be first to launch a 5G network, which it did – although that network currently only supports fixed service. AT&T said it will be the first to launch mobile 5G before the end of this year – although that network initially won’t have smartphones to support it but instead will rely on mobile hotspots. Sprint said it will have the first 5G smartphone – although how the company could claim to know the launch dates of all potential smartphones on all other carrier networks is unclear.

T-Mobile’s biggest 5G first claim – that it will have the first nationwide 5G network — also is one that hasn’t been achieved yet. Based on the 5G 600 MHz coverage data from today’s press release, though, it would seem likely that T-Mobile will indeed be the first to offer service nationwide. As with the other carriers’ biggest “first” claims, however, that achievement also comes with a caveat: What speed the network will support is unclear.

Join the Conversation

11 thoughts on “T-Mobile: One 600 MHz Cell Tower Will Cover Hundreds of Miles with 5G, But at What Speed?

  1. LTE the carriers have installed right now (although none of them have it across their entire systems) is perfectly capable of delivering 100 Mbps and even 450 Mbps, we don't need 5G for that, so what is all the 5G hype about? The carriers have always been full of BS when touting the capability of their networks, claiming hundreds of Mbps but only delivering 14-35 on an average. Imagine buying a car that was advertised to be capable of going 100 mph but when you drove it off the lot it would only go 10 mph, and this is the same thing cellphone carriers foist off on their customers every day. First off, none of them have the backhaul in place to support anything close to even 100 Mbps from each individual site, let alone 450 or gigabit, and second, based on their past record, what they will deliver will not be anywhere even close to what they claim they are capable of. It is the biggest scam going on right now.

    1. The point of 5G is to offer incredibly high peak speeds, and very high typical speeds. LTE may offer peak speeds in 400mbps in the real world, but typical speeds range between 1mbps (When heavily congested) and 100mbps. 5G is not just about speed either. It's about latency and the amount of devices a single tower can handle. 5G will allow towers to connect exponentially more devices per tower, with pings in the low single digits. There's also power savings as well, especially for smaller devices.

      Back haul will need to improve, but with 5G, there will be hundreds of thousands of towers, mostly small cells, so back haul wont be an issue because in reality, the places that need the speed won't be served by a single tower, there'll be towers on every populated street. Almost like WiFi routers all over cities, big and small, albeit with much better range, more privacy, and all linked together.

      1. Good day: After reading this I thought I would do a speed test on my galaxy 8 and receiving 169mbps download and 40 mbps upload. This is on a lte network

  2. This is hyped to death, truth is UHF band is limited by line of site. UHF @ 600 mhz doesnt go far. Entirely depends on height of the tower and lack of obstructions.

  3. Living in a smaller city, I doubt we ever see “hundreds of sites”, on every street corner, as anything outside of a major metro/urban area will be served only with the 600 MHz spectrum, which does have less capacity than millimeter wave. Less capacity is needed in areas of less population, that is true, but I still don’t think any carrier, whether it be T-Mobile or anyone, has the backhaul in place to support 5G. I think it is quite telling that T-Mobile did not quote any data-rate numbers from these tests. The carriers all seem to be in agreement that a data connection of 12-30 Mbps is what is necessary for a customer to have a good experience, and in reality, those are decent numbers and quite usable for streaming video on a 6 inch screen in my opinion. I don’t know about the promise of online gaming, that’s a whole other animal that requires huge amounts of data and a very fast connection, but the carriers are advertising that as a feature of 5G, so we’ll see what happens.

    1. Back haul typically is not the problem with LTE, as most sites around here I *know* are running on 10GigE Fiber. It's the fact that they've only got a few carriers of say, 20x20MHz LTE going, and several hundred customers connected. With the Spectrum the carriers have here, I highly doubt they're saturating a full 10Gbps link.

      When the sites around here are uncongested, 200+ is common, and 20-100Mbps is fine during the day.

    2. Online gaming does not require a lot of bandwidth, its more sensitive to latency and jitter being a highly interactive activity. Now downloading modern games and broadcasting games, that is a different animal, that does indeed works best with ample bandwidth

  4. Verizon and AT&T are focused on mmwave frequencies; T-Mobile is focused on 600 Mhz frequencies. Verizon's and AT&T's will be MUCH faster, but will not be available to many people at first; T-Mobile's will provide much more coverage, but the speeds won't be much better than current LTE-A speeds. Eventually, all of the carriers will have 5G operating on multiple frequencies, but for the first couple/few years we get to pick our poison: higher speeds with less availability or vast availability with speeds not much better than what we currently have. Flip a coin.

  5. This article was written in 2018. Its now 2020 and T-Mobile has done a fantastic job. They just passed At&t as the second rated cellular company. Myself and Friends on Verizon have been loosing signal bars in the suburbs and I don’t know why. With covid I have been working from home on verizon and I was losing calls and being told I was breaking up in my discussions. So I switched to T-Mobile. I have not had any problems. No reports of breaking up and haven’t had one drop call. I was interested about how this is done so I installed a app that tells my cellular signal and band and I was surprised to see the band 12 and 71 boosted my signal above verizon and they are the 600mhz and 700mhz bands.

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