T-Mobile gives update on 2.5GHz 5G coverage as it seeks another 600MHz lease

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There’s been a lot of focus on 5G this week after Apple introduced the first iPhone models that support 5G networks, and now we’re getting a bit of an update on T-Mobile’s plans.

Speaking to CNBC following the reveal of the new iPhones, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert confirmed that T-Mobile’s 5G network now covers a total of 260 million people. When T-Mo previously shared a figure for its 5G coverage last month, the network reached 250 million people.

Sievert also revealed that T-Mobile’s 2.5GHz 5G covers 25 million people and that figure is expected to reach 100 million by the end of 2020. T-Mo recently expanded its 2.5GHz 5G to 121 new cities and towns and said that it’ll add thousands more by the end of this year.

Switching over to 600MHz 5G, financial analysts from LightShed Partners report that T-Mobile is seeking FCC approval to lease 600MHz spectrum from Tstar following similar deals with Columbia Capital and Dish. It’s said to be a 3-year lease worth $300 million annually. T-Mo is looking to lease around 10MHz of 600MHz airwaves in 12 of the top 50 markets, including Phoenix, Sacramento, Las Vegas, San Antonio, and Indianapolis.

Those analysts suggest that the 600MHz leases that T-Mo has been signing are a “stop-gap measure” while it works to build out its 2.5GHz spectrum.

Meanwhile, analysts from The New Street say that they expect T-Mobile to acquire around 60MHz of C-band spectrum in the FCC’s upcoming auction in December, which could be around half of what Verizon picks up. Despite that, though, T-Mo can rely on its cache of around 220MHz of 2.5GHz spectrum, and the analysts don’t expect that AT&T and Verizon will be able to match that coverage with C-band spectrum that they get from the auction.

“While AT&T and Verizon will start to close the ‘fast 5G’ gap with T-Mobile in 18-36 months, the best they will ever do is close the gap, and even that will be hard,” the analysts said.

T-Mobile regularly said during the process of getting its merger with Sprint approved that the deal would help it to “supercharge” its 5G network, and so far that appears to be the case. While T-Mo launched nationwide 5G late last year before the merger was complete, that coverage uses low-band 600MHz which isn’t known for fast speeds that many consumers expect from 5G. Mid-band 2.5GHz is helping to bump T-Mo’s 5G speeds to an average of 300Mbps while still expanding coverage, and T-Mo’s got a lot of 2.5GHz thanks to the merger.

Sources: Light Reading, Mike Sievert (Twitter)

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  • DominiMMIV

    How about an update to when my LG V60 will get the SA 5G update so I can enjoy THAT.

    • Ver

      Yup! Still waiting!

  • Shaun Michalak

    T-Mobile’s 2.5GHz 5G covers 25 million people and that figure is expected to reach 100 million by the end of 2020

    This comment right here tells me to not expect anything outside of cities.. Sad because I was hoping that they would be installing it more in places that have no internet options..

    • Axel I

      Why isn’t there a high-speed internet access in those rural places today? Because it is not profitable. To make it profitable, they will give you a price tag that you won’t be willing to pay. They could spread the costs, but I will be the first one to revolt as I am not willing to subsidize it.

      Eventually HSIA will be everywhere, but I estimate it will take another 20 years or so, unless a viable satellite option will become available sooner.

      Suburbia will be there in 5 yrs for 5G.

      • steveb944

        That’s where SpaceX Starlink comes in.

        • South Carolina isn’t going to need that we are sitting on statewide spectrum that is suppose to go building a statewide wifi network also they are contrating and building high speed internet in rural areas around my city the state capital. No need for profits its about access

        • Axel I

          Covering large area with WiFi is even more expensive than 5G and also takes time. And you won’t have access everywhere you want it. Far from it. WiFi handovers are also more of a joke right now even though they used tunneled data approach similar to how licensed spectrum access works, so mobility will be limited, at best.

        • Government pockets are deeper then a mobile company pockets

        • Axel I

          No doubts, but the government provided services always makes me laugh.

        • To each is own when it comes to connecting kids during the pandemic its been private donations and government stepping up to provide kids without wifi. Wifi. 2 donations launched wifi for 2 entire apartment complexes for free in my city. Times are changing

        • Axel I

          How many more complexes are out there? I am very skeptical of Potemkin villages.

        • marque2

          The government actually made the WiFi problem much worse by shutting down the government spots where people already could get wifi and computers.

          Have them open the libraries again and then let’s talk.

        • steveb944

          Here locally we had city provided coverage and that was already a slow mess, not to mention security concerns. I can’t imagine state wide.
          As for the kids the schools had low cost contracts with 2 major providers, extreme cases received mobile phones for hotspots.

        • marque2

          And the fact the poor government service comes out of everyone’s pockets, won’t be any better than what is out there (probably much worse) but then because it is a state program it will become an entitlement which will become a fund gobbling cancer.

        • marque2

          I would be quite suspect of the government provided Wifi – it won’t be the panacea you make it out to be and “access not profits” line is dumb. The money to run the system has to come from somewhere. I can’t wait until you complain about the $2 a month state WiFi surcharge you will eventually get on your phone

      • Glenn Gore

        I am not sure the economics of serving rural areas are that much worse than providing service in urban areas. Building one site to serve half a county versus building sites every few blocks that cost exactly the same makes it VERY expensive to serve those urban areas, never mind the back-haul that must be placed at each site. Granted, the return from say, 100 customers is not as high as in an urban area, but I am talking land area coverage, which those cellular customers who live in the urban areas demand when they leave their urban enclave to travel. They want that cellular coverage everywhere, not just at home. When you cover rural areas, you are not just serving the people who live in those areas, you are also serving your urban and city-dwelling customers who are passing through, visiting friends and relatives who live in those rural areas, or are playing at parks and recreation areas.

        There are those who say that the cellular companies owe their customers nothing in terms of service everywhere, and those who say the service is just fine where they live and they don’t give a hoot whether there is ever service anywhere else or not because they do not go anywhere. I find both those attitudes repulsive.

        • Axel I

          Repulsive… let’s start with the facts.
          Most country is covered with cell signal, so if uncle Bob falls of his horse, he can call 911 wherever he is. Usually. There is no 100% coverage anywhere even in centers of major cities. Terrain, interfere, other issues. I hope you understand that. Low band coverage helps, but it won’t really give you HSIE 5G.

          We were talking about HSIE. That is expensive. HSIE is usually done via higher band spectrum. You need many sites and single mode fiber in between them. Last year, I was in Nepal and we were rolling fiber to a home of a man who paid for it out of pocket. He lives in the mountains. With labor rates as low as it is over there and nobody telling us where not to dig, we did this job in 2 weeks and I was surprised that the bill was not even $100k USD.

          Let’s get back to Uncle Bob. 90% chance he is a NIMBY, plus some local government monkey will ask you to file dozens of permits, put a cop next to you for the duration of the project, then Unions come in and then someone will sue you because of something. End result – yeah, you can do it. Oops, at a higher price (millions).

          You go downtown NYC. Fiber is everywhere. You can turn a new site in hours. Permits can be obtained as a blanket.

          Suburban deployment – also pretty easy.

          There is always some hotshot that says: well what about a standalone cell tower is talking to another standalone cell tower, and then another. Possible, but won’t really give you 5G as latencies will suck.

          And as a cherry on a cake. You often need power too, you know, to turn the green lights on etc. Rolling fiber is a piece of cake compared to that.

          What I personally find repulsive is opinion of people who have no idea what they are talking about. I’ve been running my own shop for this for the past 20 years and I worked with very different operators worldwide and helping them. It is always about last mile. Or 100 last miles when it comes to rural areas. And if the bill is $1000/month – well, either pay it, or don’t. Not many do. That is why there can be a gap in coverage, when HSIE is concerned.

          As another example, ever shipped same day package to someone across country? The coverage of that service is very similar to current 5G deployments. I wonder why.

          Until some guy calls you up and says, I need fiber to my home because he wants to watch Netflix in super-duper HD, here is the dough – just make it happen. Then you can call bunch of cell operators and offer them to piggy back of your efforts. And funny enough, more often then not about few of them may agree.

        • Glenn Gore

          Wow, that covered a lot. Everything from ridiculing people who choose to not live in urban jungles to a screed on overnight shipping I guess we now know where you stand on all this, so no need to argue any of your points.

          I will just point out that our little town of 300 people is getting fiber to the home in the next couple months, thanks to an entrepreneur who focuses on small towns and rural areas across the western half of the state, so I will have another option besides 100 Mb cable modem service for watching my Netflix in 4k HDR, thank you. Life is good in this small town.

          And to top that off, we are now served quite well with T-Mobile’s low-band 5G that was just turned on, thanks to local land owners who were more than happy to lease their property for sites across the entire county to any carrier. Money talks, there are no NIMBY’s around here.

        • Axel I

          If life is so good and you are covered with 5G, why were you complaining in a first place?

          Didn’t I say that if someone invests – you usually get things done? I’ve done plenty of rural deployments, I just won’t ever do it at a LOSS.

          I wasn’t talking overnight shipping. I was talking same day shipping.

          Geez…

        • Glenn Gore

          You’re looking for an argument, but I’m not going to do that. Have a nice day.

        • Axel I

          And you as well, my friend ;)

        • Shaun Michalak

          It is not much different here.. We have a small local internet company, which started out with dial up internet years ago.. Verizon refused to do anything to upgrade anything in this area, so Velocity took it upon themselves to put in fiber through the city.. It is going to take time since they just started installing it a couple of years ago.. But the fact that a small business like Velocity will do it, yet a big company like Verizon will not, is not much different then what you said is going on in your town..

        • Glenn Gore

          Yep, in a lot of places it is the small companies that provide the service, and they make money doing it, which according to some is impossible. Maybe not hundreds of millions of dollars, but they do make money, and satisfy the demand.

          I give T-Mobile al the credit in the world for coming in here 5 years ago and building out rural and small town areas from scratch to the point they turned on a huge swath of new 5G in the past week, filling in all the holes. No town in this county contains more than 1000 people, yet the whole place has 5G now. Granted, this is T-Mobile Band 71 5G, so it is not the greatest, but just putting it here demonstrates T-Mobile’s attitude, contrary to popular opinion, that their current customers deserve good service wherever they go and that they want to serve local customers as well. Taking their cue from scrappy little companies like the one you mentioned, the economics are there, maybe not on a huge scale, but it can be done. And is.

        • Shaun Michalak

          The fiber that is being installed here, the company got a state grant to help kick start the installation, to help it get built out faster.. Right now, I would guess that they have it installed in only about 15 miles of road.. When you consider that is over a couple of years, that does not seem like much, or like they are doing it very fast.. It almost seems like they are just doing it in their downtime or something.. I am not saying they are, but just 15 miles of installed service in a couple of years just does not seem like much..

          As for band 71 5G.. You are correct that it is not the greatest.. But at the same time, I look at it like this.. any extra spectrum installed will make speeds faster to all, even only by a little bit.. and I personally have seen some gaps filled in with band 71 on 4G.. No, they may not be great speeds, but even if right now, it is only cell service, it is still better then nothing.. I just wish that they would have set up their band 71 towers to cover more area..

          For example, there is this one road that has a coverage gap down the center of the 2 towers.. The end that they could put band 71 on to help fill in that gap of no coverage, they only put it on the North and West sides of the tower, but nothing on the east or south sides.. I do not understand why they did not put it on the south and east sides where there is a lot of small dead zones?? Maybe I am just not seeing the bigger picture, but if they are already installing on the tower, why not put it on all sides, not just 2 sides??

        • Glenn Gore

          Yes, while speeds might not light up the world on 71, you still get the benefits of lower latency and the big increase in the number of users that can access a site without performance cuts. There are limits of course, but the entire experience is better.

          Lots of companies have taken advantage of federal and state grants to construct facilities. Our local regional cellular carrier, Pioneer Cellula,r constructed a huge percentage of their infrastructure using those grants, covering every inch of their territory as a result. And they have AT&T and T-Mobile renting space on those grant-funded towers, increasing coverage for everyone. The other carriers are not on each and every one of the towers, but enough to make a difference in their coverage. At least the options for placing sites are there.

          I seriously doubt if T-Mobile does anything with 2.5 here but you never know. They are not known for sitting on unused spectrum. And if they get the additional 600, they will put it to actual use as well, no matter where it is.

        • Shaun Michalak

          I would partly agree.. T-Mobile does sit on “some” unused spectrum.. The fact that when they came through with the band 71 upgrades, they also added a bunch of mid band upgrades too, which could only have come from unused spectrum.. Here, I went from “lucky to get a data connection” to averaging about 15mb down on a Metro plan.. I would like to say it was from the band 71 installation, but they never put band 71 on that tower, and the one that they did, was a couple of miles away, vs a couple of blocks. So that band 71 coverage made minimal effect in my area.

          I noticed how you never mentioned Verizon in that list.. But it does not surprise me.. Verizon does not share very well.. The only time Verizon will share a tower, is when they basically have to share a tower because they can not build one themselves.. Other then that, they refuse to install on a tower that they do not own, or even let anyone else install on a tower that they do own..

        • Glenn Gore

          Mid-band was all that T-Mobile had here before they got 71. They still get great range out of it, which gives me hope that if they do indeed put 2.5 here, they would manage to get good range out of that too. The worst spectrum-squatter here is, no surprise, US Cellular. They own lots of spectrum over the entire state but only serve the eastern half, squatting on the western Oklahoma spectrum.

          I did not mention Verizon because they have no native service here. Verizon came into Oklahoma by buying Alltel, which served the southwest quarter, the northeast quarter, and a small stretch in the center around Oklahoma City. Verizon never expanded that service area, just roamed on Pioneer Cellular for northwest Oklahoma and Cross Wireless and Pine Cellular for the southeast. Pioneer, Croos, and Pine are participants in Verizon’s LTE in Rural America program, so Verizon covers the whole state that way.

        • Shaun Michalak

          I have seen that in a lot of areas with Verzion.. Just look at Kentucky.. They are buying out Bluegrass because they have no coverage in most of that state too.. But to be fair, I would say that this goes for all companies.. AT&T bought out Cell One in my area, plus Cricket, T-Mobile bought out MetroPCS and Sprint, and .. Well Verizon has bluegrass, and a couple other small companies..

          As for spectrum, I see a lot of places where T-Mobile only has band 2, or band 4, and that is it installed.. I think this is mostly in US Cellular territory.. But one good thing is since they merged with Sprint, they now have all of Sprints band 25 to use across the country to supplement their coverage.. Plus add in all the band 71 that they got from the auctions, and even without band 41, they should now be able to put up a halfway decent network in those areas where they were really lacking before..

          Just curious, but is US Cellulars network as bad as what I have read?? Looking at gaps in coverage, etc..

        • Glenn Gore

          I do not have any experience with the US Cellular network at all. They have never offered service here and I have never known a single person who has their service. I have always thought that they might actually build something here since they own all the 700A spectrum over the western half of Oklahoma, held by their spectrum-squatting subsidiaries Frontier and King Street, but they never have.

          They did build a couple of protection sites in the area that consisted of a small radio unit and one panel on a tower that supposedly was a rural wireless service, but all attempts to contact them about the service via the phone number on a website produced nothing and all that equipment is gone now.

      • Shaun Michalak

        I can agree that it is not profitable if you are talking fiber run to the home.. They basically would never recoup the costs for something like that.. But cell towers are a bit different.. One fiber run, to a tower that they have to run it to anyways, could give a reasonable amount of high speed off of cell towers to the whole area..

        One thing I think of when reading this is the fact that they are going to put high speed 4G (for now.. will be upgraded to 5G later) service on the moon.. It seems kind of funny that we can not get high speed data on towers in rural areas, but you will be able to get it on the moon in the near future.. Let that sink in..

    • steveb944

      I didn’t expect better coverage, just new tech.
      SpaceX Starlink will provide new internet.

  • steveb944

    “the best they will ever do is close the gap, and even that will be hard”
    Maybe the other top 3 were right, I guess we’ll see if they cut some deals.

  • Willie D

    600Mhz is a JOKE in SF and that 2.5Ghz doesn’t even exist for TMo here. But then again this has always been an AT&T and Verizon market. Ive honestly given up hope TMo will actually built anything more here than there is existing.

    • marque2

      I would blame California for that. Weirdly less less liberal towns like Phoenix have incredible service – you get 100mbs plus all over town, more liberal like Tucson you barely get a signal – even just outside tmobile shops.

      My guess is the more liberal towns try to get more graft from the mobile companies and won’t allow antennas to be built. They would rather inconvenience citizens in order to get the big bucks.

      Los Angeles area is much the same as San Francisco.

      • Brad C

        No.. Cali is because they had later vacancies of 600MHz than Phoenix.

        Phoenix has always been strong for T-Mobile.. and it’s because VoiceStream was strong in the early buildout.. Cali does have a lot more red tape but that’s not because of “liberal”, it’s because all of the fools with more money than they have an understanding of science.

        Sprint, on the other hand was quite literal trash in Phoenix until very recently. It just depends on what cities were “focused” on by said carrier.

        NIMBY’s exist across every bit of the spectrum from Liberal to Conservative… as someone who’s had to deal with them as an engineer trying to file for permits.. trust me on that

        • Shaun Michalak

          I would like to agree with you on that, but the fact that I have seen too much that revolves around liberal states.. Just look at the lawsuit.. T-Mobile said that they wanted to expand their coverage, and get good speeds.. Most of the places that fought that merger were mostly all liberal states.. Not just T-Mobile.. I remember reading an article a couple years ago where Verizon wanted to install another tower because their current tower was getting maxed out.. Even Verizon was told to bug off and would not be allowed to upgrade their service / coverage..

        • Brad C

          Yup… it’s better clickbait news.

          As someone who’s actually had to deal with it.. It happens just as often in conservative places too.. and as someone who went to ASU and had my first Engineering gig in Phoenix.. There’s a lot less red tape government wise.. but get to Chandler, Queen Creek, etc.. and they are the first to NIMBY and complain about it decreasing property value, etc..

          It’s just less interesting to write a news story about that ;)

        • Shaun Michalak

          I am not saying that it is all government that holds things up.. I noticed that a lot of the hold ups are not by the government, as in rules and regulations.. It a lot of times comes down to 2 things.. That they do not “look” pretty, or that people think that they are going to get cancer or something by having a cell tower near them, and fight to get it stopped from being there for that reason.. I remember one article where T-Mobile had a tower up, where they had it installed on a power pole, and a family did not like the looks of the antenna’s there, so they fought and fought until that tower was finally taken down..

        • marque2

          Then why is Tmobile so poor in Tucson which was first phase? Phoenix was later, as I recall. And that doesn’t explain the 100mbs I seemed to get just about everywhere vs the 20-40 I get in San Diego and LA areas, if I am lucky. Phoenix is a town that supports cell companies to help their citizens and doesn’t put in roadblocks for graft.

        • Brad C

          You do know that Phoenix is not dense in population like LA, San Diego, Chicago, NYC, etc..

          Phoenix.. it’s like a cluster of suburbs that kind of kludge together to “make” a city, so of course.. given the same MHz, you will see higher speeds in Phoenix due to lower density of population.

          You cannot even go by that observation.. as even on it’s busiest day, Phoenix’s downtown does not have nearly as many people in a given area.. outside of maybe old town on a weekend, or a parade downtown than any large city here used as an “example” combined.

          Now, had Phoenix’s city center.. OR attached suburbs had the population density of LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, etc.. then you could use that argument.

          especially a city that allows a company like Cox to have a juggernaut monopoly on the city, and bully options like Google Fiber out. There’s a reason why home broadband really sucks and is well overpriced there (It was by far the worst city i’d lived in for broadband “reliability”) due to Cox being a completely private entity and not having to disclose doing actual network upgrades and still running nodes with ~200+ homes connected to it..

          But hey, Phoenix fosters innovation, right? I’m so glad I moved from that place, It was okay during college, but the overall bubble that city lives in is mind boggling to me, and I’m very glad to be back east in a large city.

          Keep watching conservative news channels there buddy

      • Omar Boyer

        I live in los Angeles and It’s always been like that At&t and verizon always had more spectrum here and still do . Here in LA I also gave up and lost hope on T-Mobile. I switched to At&t and I’m getting 100+ mbps all over LA . My friend on verizon same thing . I really wanted to make it work with TMobile but even as of now 2020 many dead zones , slow data and I even tried their latest phones to make sure I had one that supported all their lte bands . And nope.

        • shawn murray

          i also live in LA and i get anywhere from 100mbps and up too like 300 any a lot of places.

        • marque2

          Los Angeles isn’t particularly good for any carrier.

        • Omar Boyer

          It is for verizon and At&t the only one that doesn’t work good is T-Mobile.

        • marque2

          Sure.

        • Erika Rodriguez

          believe what ever u want ha . aint nobody care bout your opinion . At&t and verizon work great here in LA,. maybe tmobile will work good in a few years once they finish upgrading their network completely .

        • Omar Boyer

          “sure” all he can come up with hahaha . Been living here my whole 31 years in LA Erika and you ? I sure as hell know what company works better here I tried every single one here .

        • Erika Rodriguez

          exactly like he really gonna argue with us that been living here our whole life and know what works and what doesnt ? i been living here in los angeles 28 years , also tried everything and came to the conclusion LA is a verizon and at&t market.

        • stacks3000

          why are you posting on a tmobile news site if you don’t plan on ever using tmobile?

      • Willie D

        Your explanation under the guide of political rhetoric of liberal vs “less liberal” is just eye rolling

        • marque2

          You think Phoenix is a liberal town? Or do you deny the graft (basically demands of huge payments to be allowed to put up a tower, and upgrade a tower) of socialist cities along the west coast?

          FCC had to change rules for 5g basically federalizing the permitting because it got so bad.

      • stacks3000

        Liberal cities/states tend to have more regulation than conservative cities/states. That’s the way it is. A good example is construction in Cali and Arizona. In CA, you need a permit to do just about any work. AZ, you just need to leave one wall up and you don’t need a permit at all.

  • Surf Rider 11

    Does the 12 support the new 2.5GHz midband?

    • Dsgb Solo

      Yep, it sure does.