T-Mobile isn't messing around, it wants to be the biggest carrier in the U.S. and it is working hard to make that a reality. The third-place wireless carrier has promised to roll out a nationwide 5G network by 2020, and positively cleaned up at the FCC 600 MHz spectrum auction held earlier this year. T-Mobile dropped $8 billion in its spectrum bid to buy 45 percent of all available 600 MHz spectrum that the FCC was selling off, giving it the largest chunk of spectrum sold at auction by far. The catch for now is that in some urban areas around the country that spectrum is still in use by television broadcasts.
For now, T-Mobile is starting the rollout of its 600 MHz network in rural America where the spectrum it owns isn't being used for other broadcasts. Only two months after the FCC granted the licenses needed to T-Mobile, the carrier has flipped the switch on what it says is the world's first 600 MHz LTE network; that new network is located in Cheyenne, Wyoming and is using Nokia equipment. T-Mobile plans to start the rollout in other rural parts of the country with locations slated to come online this year in areas of Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, Western North Dakota, Maine, Coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington.
"Earlier this month, wireless customers coast to coast proved T-Mobile already delivers America’s best unlimited network. We swept the competition in OpenSignal’s report on all counts—a global industry first. And that was before we started lighting up the world’s first 600 MHz LTE network," said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. "Buckle up, carriers. Because the Un-carrier’s 600 MHz network just got real."
There is a catch to the 600 MHz network rollout for now, and it is a big one. Devices that work on the network won't turn up until Q4 2017. T-Mobile notes that it has been working with chipset and device makers to support the new network, Samsung and LG plan handsets to support the network in Q4.
The reason the new 600 MHz network is such a big deal for mobile users in general has to do with the ability of the low-band 600 MHz spectrum to reach twice as far as other spectrum bandwidths, and penetrate buildings four times better than mid-band spectrum. This means more people covered by the network and much better coverage inside homes and offices.
"This team broke every record in the books with the speed of our 700 MHz LTE deployment, and we’re doing it again. T-Mobile is effectively executing in six months what would normally be a two-year process," said Neville Ray, Chief Technology Officer for T-Mobile. "We won’t stop … and we won’t slow down!"