T-Mobile said that it has successfully made the first 5G data connection in the 600 MHz spectrum. The operator, along with its vendor partner Nokia, said that the 5G connection was made in Spokane, Washington, and that it used equipment based upon the 3GPP 5G standard.
Although other operators and vendors have made 5G data connections, those other connections occurred in higher spectrum bands and used millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum.
T-Mobile has said it plans to launch 5G using the 600 MHz and 28 GHz mmWave spectrum bands next year. In July, the company signed a $3.5 billion deal with Nokia for 5G equipment including Nokia’s AirScale radio platform, cloud-native core, Airframe hardware, and CloudBand software.
Why 600 MHz Matters
By using 600 MHz spectrum, T-Mobile will be able to provide 5G coverage across hundreds of square miles using a single tower. This is dramatically different than deploying 5G in mmWave spectrum, where a single site may only provide coverage of a square mile or less.
T-Mobile was a big winner in the FCC’s 600 MHz incentive auction that ended early this year. The company spent around $8 billion on the licenses. The spectrum had previously been used by TV broadcasters.
Other big winners in the 600 MHz auction were Dish Networks, Comcast, and U.S. Cellular.
T-Mobile is in the midst of acquiring Sprint. The company announced its intent to buy Sprint last April in an all-stock deal.
When the merger was announced the two companies said that they planned to invest up to $40 billion in a new 5G network. That network will combine Sprint’s wide swath of 2.5 GHz spectrum with T-Mobile’s nationwide 600 MHz spectrum. The two companies said that the combined spectrum assets would deliver a 5G network with much deeper coverage than either could do alone.