There’s a LOT of hype about 5G right now … and some real BS that’s being peddled to consumers and press. I get it. 5G will possibly be the most transformative technology of our time. It has the potential to unleash new applications and advances that will enrich virtually every industry and every part of our lives, fueling the American economy. It’ll create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in value and give people more choices and more opportunity. But I think it’s important to ground ourselves in the facts and realities of 5G too.
The reality is that none of those amazing possibilities will matter if not everyone can participate in the 5G revolution … and that’s exactly what will happen if AT&T, Verizon and the cable monopolists are left to control America’s 5G future. The one key thing to know amidst all the noise is that only the New T-Mobile intends to provide 5G for everyone, everywhere. Because what good are the benefits of 5G if not everyone can get them?
We’re squarely focused on creating a great customer experience – not for a chosen few, but for everyone. To do that, a combination of low, mid and high band spectrum is required. This is New T-Mobile’s multi-band 5G spectrum strategy (a key part of our proposed merger with Sprint), and it’s key to America’s global competitiveness in 5G.
Verizon and AT&T’s 5G strategy is limited … and sloooow to bring us real 5G … and will light up 5G to only a few places in the short term. But pressure from New T-Mobile’s broad and deep nationwide 5G will require them to do more, and do it faster, to compete. 5G will truly deliver amazing experiences, but not from anything that the other guys have launched so far! And they know it. Just look at everything they’re doing to cover it up. And the dinosaur cable companies who have done nothing to innovate for years know that 5G is an “existential threat”to their home broadband monopoly and they’re scared of having to compete instead of continuing to hold customers hostage to high-priced plans, so they’re making last-ditch efforts to stay relevant – like offering wireless service and finally upgrading their networks.
1. Verizon invested millions in dead-end 5G (W)TF … just to say “first.”
Verizon and America are not first with 5G. Verizon created their own made-up proprietary standard – that literally no one in the world plans to use once real standards-based 5G arrives – just to launch 5G* in a few blocks of four cities. All so they can misleadingly claim to be “first.” It doesn’t matter who claims first. It matters who does it right first, and Verizon ain’t there yet no matter how many hundreds of millions they spend on ads telling us they are.
2. Verizon – coverage-map obsessed Verizon – refuse to publish a 5G coverage map.
Verizon’s intentions for 5G are for it to be only available in very limited areas. They only use millimeter wave (mmW) spectrum, which covers less than a square mile from each tower and gets blocked by doors, windows, walls, trees, cars – you name it. That means they’ll only provide 5G to a few small pockets of a few urban centers where they can make the most money. Yes, mmW is an important part of the mix, but as a standalone 5G strategy it makes zero sense.
Attendees at an industry event this month saw the limitations of mmW-only phones first-hand:
…we couldn’t touch the phone because it was positioned in such a specific way to connect well to the 5G network. We couldn’t even walk behind the phone, as we could have caused an interference. – Digital Trends
Their 5G* is soooo limited they won’t even publish a coverage map. Because they don’t want you to know just how limited their not-really 5G is.
If approved, New T-Mobile will have the spectrum assets to bring 5G to everyone, everywhere, including rural areas. By 2021, New T-Mobile’s network will cover almost 2/3 of the US population with speeds of 100+Mbps, and that increases to almost 90% by 2024. The other guys can’t even come close anytime soon, and they’ll need to work hard to catch up.
3. BOTH AT&T and Verizon are covering up their network limitations with meaningless word trickery.
AT&T is so worried about how limited their 5G footprint will be that they’ve renamed their existing LTE network “5G Evolution.” And now, they’re calling their super limited mmW deployment “5G+.” I’ve heard they even have plans to show a 5G network indicator for LTE on consumers’ devices to hide the fact that actual 5G will be scarce, duping customers into thinking they’re getting something they’re not.
Verizon named their 5G Ultra Wide Band (UWB) – to trick you into thinking their network’s scarcity is something special. In fact, they’re working with OEMs to show “5G UWB” on the device … when you can find it! UWB should be short for UnderWhelming Bullshit because that’s exactly what it is.
The truth is if their 5G networks could scale beyond tiny pockets of dense urban areas, they wouldn’t be doing this.
4. AT&T is launching 5G with big-a$$ 5G pucks
This is not what America pucking wants.
AT&T, like Verizon, is also currently only using mmW spectrum and launching 5G in very limited areas. In AT&T’s attempt to claim first, they promised a 2018 consumer launch of mobile 5G NR (actual global standards-based 5G) in a handful of cities — and I’ve been waiting to see what they would do to try to squeeze into the last two weeks of December. They’ve finally said service is live in tiny parts of these cities – but their customers still can’t get it. Instead, AT&T has hand-picked a few people to carry around a giant puck “at no cost for at least 90 days.” At T-Mobile we call that a friendly user trial, not a launch! The truth is they can’t sell it yet because the tech isn’t commercially ready — in our testing, it under-performs LTE and does not support any real mobility right now.
And if you missed it, take a look at the handy puck gift guide we published to help people lug this thing around.
5. AT&T’s CEO even admitted their meager network coverage in a rare moment of truth
AT&T’s rollout is so underwhelming, in fact, that their CEO had this to say about it this month:
There’s probably not going to be broad enough deployment of networks that somebody would find a 5g phone generally useful. – Randall Stephenson, AT&T CEO
Add to that all the hyperventilating both Verizon and AT&T did a couple weeks ago trying to lay claim to the first 5G phone – a phone ALL of us are working with this OEM to develop, and ALL of us are going to carry. That’s right, T-Mobile is working on that phone too – and other 5G devices with other OEMs and chipset manufacturers. In fact, we expect to have multiple 5G devices – that will work across multiple spectrum bands – in 2019, which will supercharge the experience for New T-Mobile customers.
Some asked us why we aren’t clamoring to be part of this cluster. The answer is simple. We don’t have time or resources to waste on that BS. The other guys are gigantic corporations with money and time to burn. We’re heads down actually working on the New T-Mobile, so we can deliver 5G for All, if regulators approve the deal.
When you boil it all down, what is 5G all about? Is it about who’s “first,” or about who’s first to get it right? At T-Mobile, we think “getting it right” is about delivering real benefits to Americans. That’s what we intend to do and WE WON’T STOP.
Neville Ray is CTO for T-Mobile. This Blog originally ran on T-Mobile’s web page Dec. 20, 2018.