Fixed wireless is a “super-exciting use case” for 5G said T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray on a virtual investor conference today.
As of April, the company had made the 5G version of its fixed wireless Home Internet service available to 30 million households and according to Ray, the company expects to have 500,000 customers for the offering by the end of the year. Within the next four years, the company expects to have eight million to nine million customers for the offering, he said.
The company eventually expects to expand the availability of the service to 90 million people. The timing on that is “all gated on the pace and scale of the 2.5 GHz rollout,” Ray said.
T-Mobile 5G Fixed Wireless
T-Mobile is using the 2.5 GHz spectrum it acquired in its Sprint acquisition to support the fixed wireless service, which will essentially piggyback on the company’s deployment of mobile service in that band. That means “the capital costs are already there” to support mobile services, eliminating the need to deploy infrastructure solely to support fixed services, he said.
T-Mobile has set a goal of putting 100 MHz of the 2.5 GHz spectrum into use in all 2.5 GHz markets by the end of the year. The company announced today that it has 5G deployed in the 2.5 GHz band in areas covering 200 million people.
The company is seeing 5G speeds of 400 Mbps in areas where 100 Mhz of 2.5 GHz spectrum is in use, Ray said.
According to him, there are many areas where T-Mobile doesn’t see “a path for mobile consumers to consume that volume of spectrum and capacity because there just aren’t enough people.”
Moving forward, the company has the potential for faster speeds and greater capacity, as it has an average of 160 MHz of spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band nationwide and is deploying radios that can use the entire 160 MHz, Ray said.
Ray noted that according to T-Mobile projections, a mobile customer would consumer about 80 gigabytes (apparently per month) by about 2024, and the company has a similar target for fixed service.
Using those estimates and population data, the company can determine “where we can support fixed wireless growth,” Ray said.
“The demand in this space is compelling,” he noted. “In places where we’re marketing that service, we’re seeing great interest and huge uptake.”
On the mobile side, Ray noted that T-Mobile is looking to use its 2.5 GHz spectrum for downstream communications and to use its 600 MHz spectrum for upstream communications when technology supporting that capability becomes available. Whenever that comes to pass, the company could see further 5G speed gains.
Ray didn’t discuss whether T-Mobile would use that approach for fixed wireless, but it would seem like a logical choice. Indeed, it might be a requirement of making the shift on the mobile side.
Ray made his comments at the BCG and New Street Research 5G Conference. A webcast replay is available at this link.