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T-Mobile is the third biggest network in the US, and is currently rolling out 5G in certain US cities. The rollout areas are pretty limited at the moment, as is the network's choice of available 5G phones, but it has targeted a nationwide rollout on 6 December if things go its way - read on for more on that.
T-Mobile - and it's outspoken CEO John Legere - have been critical of rival Verizon, accusing its rival of talking a big game about 5G, charging more for it and not even giving customers a map to find it." - because Verizon hasn't yet provided a coverage map, just areas where you can get 5G service.
T-Mobile has even set a Twitter account joking about the difficulty in locating Verizon 5G signals in launch cities. However, with all 5G rollouts at such an early stage, it seems too early to be shouting from the rooftops.
What's going on with the T-Mobile and Sprint merger?
T-Mobile's 5G rollout plans are contingent on one thing; the network and Sprint are currently proposing a merger. The delayed merger has caused problems for T-Mobile's 5G rollout, with various infrastructure contracts reportedly on hold, something that's also concerning analysts.
While the merger is approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice, the merger is facing a legal challenge from 16 states concerned about rising prices for consumers.
T-Mobile says its 5G network capacity will increase by 14x if the merger goes through. It certainly seems clear that T-Mobile's 5G rollout plans are contingent on the merger going ahead.
The combined network has had to concede that it will sell Boost Mobile (a Sprint-owned MVNO) as well as valuable spectrum assets to Dish, effectively ensuring that the US mobile market will gain a new fourth major competitor.
As part of the deal, Dish has been mandated by regulators that it must build a 5G network covering 70 percent of the US population by 2023. T-Mobile/Sprint even has to support Dish's entry still further, running a Dish MVNO for seven years while the company builds its own network. That's quite some commitment.
T-Mobile 5G cities
As we said above, T-Mobile hopes to launch its nationwide 5G service on 6 December and the network says it will cover 200 million US citizens at that point.
That service will run on the 600Mhz band and not the shorter millimeter wave network (mmWave). It will still be able to get to speeds of around 450Mbps if conditions are at their best, although expect significantly slower speeds than that generally.
T-Mobile's mmWave network has been rolling out a lot slower, but as with other mmWave networks is designed for high speed and capacity in urban areas.
Currently though, things are somewhat slower; T-Mobile has rolled its network out in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Cleveland and Atlanta. It's certainly true that other networks have more extensive lists of cities where they've launched at least some coverage.
While T-Mobile's 5G coverage is good in Manhattan in New York City, things aren't quite so comprehensive elsewhere, with very patchy coverage in the other launch cities. Los Angeles doesn't have huge amounts of coverage, while the others have fairly small areas of coverage inside their urban areas.
In Las Vegas, for example, the only coverage on the strip is near the Las Vegas Convention Center - according to T-Mobile's own map, not even its own T-Mobile Arena is covered by 5G currently.
T-Mobile 5G phones
The only 5G phone T-Mobile is currently selling is the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. However, it has announced two upcoming phones for its network in the shape of the Galaxy Note 10+ and the latest OnePlus 5G phone, the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren. Yes, that really is its name. These handsets will be available from the start of December.
The standard versions of the new OnePlus 7T and 7T Pro aren't 5G capable. However there is a 5G version of the enhanced edition of the 7T Pro, which comes with McLaren branding to reflect OnePlus' affiliation with the Formula 1 team of the same name.
These new phones will be compatible with Sprint's mid-band 5G coverage if and when (more likely, when) Sprint and T-Mobile manage to merge.
In terms of a wider range, T-Mobile is probably biding its time for more efficient 5G handsets to debut in 2020, by which time its network rollout may be more accomplished.
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
Common to all the US 5G networks is Samsung's first 5G phone. It's an extremely powerful device and it sizeable, too, with a 6.7-inch display making it more like the recently-announced Note 10 series.
It's even larger than the 6.4-inch S10+, which itself is supposed to be the larger version of the standard Galaxy S Series phone. The advantage of a bigger phone is that there's more cooling, and certainly that's an advantage for the first wave of 5G phones.
The Galaxy S10 5G is powered by Samsung's own Exynos 9820 platform and 5G modem and has a large 4,500 mAh battery, too. You also get a quad-lens rear camera including wide, telephoto and ultrawide lenses.
T-Mobile 5G coverage
T-Mobile is primarily using 28 Ghz mmWave (millimetre wave) for its 5G rollout, just as Verizon is. That means excellent download speeds, but a more difficult blanket rollout. That's because the shorter wavelength signals don't travel so far and are easily blocked in urban areas or by external walls - so you need loads of 5G nodes.
You only need to look at T-Mobile's current coverage maps to show the issues around mmWave deployment - it's extremely patchy.
So T-Mobile is also opting to use the low-band 600Mhz spectrum favoured by Sprint and UK operators, though eventually all networks will use mmWave, too, because of the vastly increased speeds promised.
Low-band spectrum can also carry 5G signals inside. Currently Sprint is leading the way with low-band and it's one of the reasons that Sprint and T-Mobile feel they would be able to build the best US 5G network if they merged. It certainly feels that T-Mobile's rollout is banking on the boost in spectrum from the merger.
As with Verizon, you should get current speeds around the 400-500Mbps mark, but of course this will depend where you are.
Despite what others say in light of the Sprint merger talk, T-Mobile says it is continuing with rollout, expanding LTE coverage "while simultaneously laying the foundation for broad, nationwide 5G in 2020. That hasn’t and won’t change." And now, of course, we have a 6 December date for a full launch.
T-Mobile 5G deals
In terms of SIM-only, T-Mobile 5G will offer service plans at $15 for 2GB (not enough, in our opinion), and $25 for 5GB. The plans also offer 100GB of free monthly home internet to 10 million American families. And if that wasn’t enough, the company is also planning to give free wireless service to every first responder in America.
Currently Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is available on T-Mobile from $31.25 a month on a 24 month deal providing you put $349.99 down plus tax. You can also buy it outright from the network for $1,099.
T-Mobile 5G business and home internet
Unlike Verizon's 5G Home Internet, here are no currently announced plans for a 5G home or business service from T-Mobile. However, in its statements about 5G on its website, it does mention home broadband as a future growth area for 5G, so we'll join the dots on that one.
T-Mobile 5G for business
Like the other big US networks, T-Mobile sees big opportunities for businesses willing to invest in 5G, especially around the internet of things and remote connectivity.
Currently, T-Mobile offers various business-orientated plans under its Magenta brand including Magenta Plus for Business, with 20GB of mobile hotspot data and unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi.