Sprint and T-Mobile US connected a few more pieces in their complex 5G network plans that were also significant wins for vendor partners Samsung and Intel.
Sprint’s latest 5G push involves plans to launch a standards-based 5G smartphone from Samsung this summer. The device will be able to access the carrier’s 2.5 GHz, which is central to its 5G network plans. It will also be able to tap into Sprint’s 1.9 GHz and 800 MHz spectrum that is used for its 4G LTE network.
Sprint had previously announced that it would launch a 5G smartphone from LG during the first half of 2019. That would align with the carrier’s plans to launch mobile 5G services in nine markets early this year.
Sprint CTO John Saw said those initial markets include New York City; Phoenix; Kansas City, Kansas; Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas and Houston, Texas; Los Angeles; and Washington, D.C. He noted that the carrier would use around 60 megahertz of its 2.5 GHz spectrum to support those initial 5G services.
Saw explained that the 2.5 GHz spectrum band provides better coverage from the same cell site than the millimeter wave (mmWave) bands being used by Verizon and AT&T. As an example, Saw said that Sprint’s initial 5G deployment plans in Phoenix will cover more than 226 square miles and 2 million people. “This is not just hot spots,” he said.
Verizon in October launched 5G services in a handful of markets using a proprietary technology and mmWave spectrum that it will update to standards-based technology as equipment becomes available. AT&T in mid-December launched its standards-based mobile 5G service using mmWave spectrum in 12 markets.
Sprint has said it would have 5G nationwide by the end of 2019. Samsung is providing network equipment for that network along with Ericsson and Nokia.
T-Mobile’s latest puzzle piece was a successful 5G data call and video call using its 600 MHz spectrum assets on a live commercial network. The test was conducted with network partners Ericsson and Intel, and included uplink and downlink connections.
T-Mobile hyped the successful test as being the world’s first using the 600 MHz spectrum band. However, it should be noted that T-Mobile is one of the few carriers in the world both working on 5G and having access to spectrum in that band. The carrier also noted that it completed a tri-band 5G call that tapped into its mmWave spectrum in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands.
More significant is that the test was conducted on a live commercial network. T-Mobile CEO John Legere last year said the carrier would have commercial mobile 5G services in 30 markets by the end of 2018. However, the carrier has yet to provide any update on those plans. It is sticking with plans to have a nationwide 5G network in 2020.
T-Mobile announced at last year’s Mobile World Congress event that it was using Ericsson’s 5G Platform and its 5G RAN software that is based upon the 5G New Radio (NR) standard. It later announced a $3.5 billion 5G contract with the vendor.
The test also used Intel’s 5G Mobile Trial Platform. This is a significant win for the chip giant, which is trying to snatch 5G market share from market leader Qualcomm.
Intel first unveiled its 5G trial platform at the 2016 Mobile World Congress event. It has since collaborated with vendors and carriers, including Ericsson, Nokia, AT&T, Korea Telecom, NTT DoCoMo, and Verizon. The platform uses the company’s field programmable gate array (FPGA) chip design and Core processors.
Carriers have been announcing successful 5G tests as a way to show progress toward launching commercial 5G services. T-Mobile, for instance, announced in November that it had completed a downlink 5G data transmission using its 600 MHz spectrum and equipment from Nokia. And in June, T-Mobile and Nokia completed a bi-directional 5G data connection using mmWave spectrum in a laboratory environment.