T-Mobile will focus on low-band 600MHz spectrum for its initial foray into 5G in 2019 but that doesn’t mean that high-band millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum is out of the picture for the operator in the future.
“600MHz is the starting point for us,” said Karri Kuoppamaki,
VP of radio network technology and strategy at the Wells Fargo Securities 5G Forum Thursday.
Nonetheless, Kuoppamaki said that getting to grips with millimeter wave was one of the priorities of the year for him. “Our 5G starts with 600MHz but we will be adding millimeter wave too,” he said.
Understanding how and where the high-band spectrum can be deployed is an important part of that. “Doing 5G with millimeter wave only is just not feasible,” Kuoppamaki said. (See Islands in the Stream: Don’t Expect Full mmWave 5G Coverage in US, Says Nokia.)
Kuoppamaki points out that a mmWave basestation could cover an area of a quarter of a mile. Therefore, covering an area of a million and half square miles could present a challenge.
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In fact, one of the advantages of deploying 5G on 600MHz, Kuoppamaki suggested, is that T-Mobile will be able to follow its “three-year” LTE deployment pattern, initially putting up 5G antennas at its macro basestations. T-Mobile expects to start 5G service in 2019.
Interestingly, Kuoppamaki didn’t comment on the speeds he expected from the new network. A focus on download speeds alone was “disappointing,” if “easy to understand,” he suggested.
T-Mobile, he said, is first and foremost focused on “mobile” and looking ahead to the applications of massive connectivity. “That’s what’s exciting to us,” he said.
Many Internet of Things (IoT) applications enabled by Phase II of the 5G specification won’t need massive download speeds, he pointed out. “I can’t think of an application today that requires a gigabit,” Kuoppamaki noted.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading