Deutsche Telekom’s US operation to build nationwide 5G network by 2020
04 May 2017 | Alan Burkitt-Gray
T-Mobile US is planning to build a nationwide 5G network using spectrum it bought in April’s auction for $8 billion.
The company, which is majority owned by Deutsche Telekom, has agreed deals with both Ericsson and Nokia to build the network, which will use 600MHz spectrum.
“Truly mobile 5G has to be nationwide,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile US, comparing the operator’s position to what he called “the carriers” – AT&T and Verizon.
Legere, who calls T-Mobile US an “un-carrier”, said: “The carriers are using 5G to either distract from how badly they’re losing today or to give their shareholders some hope they can compete with Big Cable. Their ambitious vision for fixed 5G to replace home internet will never provide mobile 5G coverage. It makes no sense.”
He did not say what services and content the company will use the network for, but the company said: “T-Mobile 5G will enable high bandwidth and massive throughput in urban areas using a combination of mid-band and millimetre wave spectrum.”
A few clues came from statements by the heads of Ericsson and Nokia – respectively Börje Ekholm and Rajeev Suri. Ekholm said the spectrum will bring “the ultimate experiences” to enterprise customers and consumers. Suri said: “The 5G networks of tomorrow have the ability to usher in tremendous commercial opportunities for service providers, vertical industries and new entrants.”
T-Mobile US did not say how the work will be split between Ericsson and Nokia, nor how much the company is spending on the contracts. Because of US government rules, Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE remain unable to bid for the work, leaving only Samsung of South Korea as a potential competitor for the work.
Huawei is a supplier to Deutsche Telekom, the parent company of T-Mobile US, in Europe, and supplies AT&T with 4G equipment for Mexico.
T-Mobile US CTO Neville Ray said: “In the next decade we’ll see everything moving to 5G. Nationwide mobile 5G will require both high-band and broad low-band coverage, and having unused nationwide 600MHz spectrum means T-Mobile is in an ideal position to deliver.”
In a blog he wrote: “Listen, 5G is going to be amazing – maybe the most transformative technology of our lifetime.” He added: “5G will mean lower-latency (that means faster response-times for your applications), massively increased battery life and an exponential leap in the number of connections we can handle simultaneously – and that unlocks all kinds of amazing new applications. It’s about more than just speed.”
He suggested some potential applications for 5G, but warned: “As with prior network innovations, we can’t fully imagine all of the new applications that will emerge to take advantage of low-cost, continually-connected, long-battery-life embedded sensors, for example.”
But Ray did suggest “ augmented reality heads-up displays that see everything you do, and provide you with real-time cloud-driven information about the people and objects around you” and “an earpiece that provides natural language translation in real-time as a friend speaks to you at full-speed in any language”.
He also suggested “environmental sensors embedded in the infrastructure – thousands mixed in the asphalt on new smart highways that intelligently route traffic and update road signs, notify road crews when repairs are required and emergency services when accidents occur”.
In April T-Mobile US bought 45% of the 600MHz spectrum that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had put up for auction. It will use some of that spectrum to expand its 4G LTE coverage.
The spectrum has been recovered from television broadcast services and some is still in us. T-Mobile says it plans to start offering 5G in 2019 and aims to have nationwide coverage in the US and Puerto Rico by 2020.