In collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm, T-Mobile, renowned as the ‘uncarrier,’ has undertaken a groundbreaking 5G standalone (SA) test, showcasing the potential of its millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum. The test utilized an impressive eight channels, achieving a peak download speed of 4.3 Gbps, with uplink channels combining to reach 420 Mbps.
While Verizon has historically championed mmWave in the US, T-Mobile, bolstered by the Sprint acquisition, initially focused on mid and low-band spectrums. Despite skepticism about mmWave’s propagation capabilities, T-Mobile’s strategy has proven successful. Ookla’s speed test reports consistently place T-Mobile ahead of AT&T and Verizon in median download speeds.
T-Mobile’s recent shift towards exploring mmWave’s potential comes as Ookla’s latest report indicates a narrowing performance gap. Ulf Ewaldsson, T-Mobile US’s President of Technology, emphasized the strategic application of mmWave in scenarios like crowded venues and fixed-wireless access (FWA), aligning with T-Mobile’s evolving approach.
While acknowledging mmWave’s suboptimal performance for mobile users on the move, T-Mobile sees it as a game-changer for FWA. The recent growth of T-Mobile’s FWA customer base, reaching 4.2 million, highlights the success of its alternative to fixed broadband. MmWave’s enhanced capacity could provide a more reliable, faster connection, addressing speed fluctuations during peak demand.
However, T-Mobile faces challenges in ensuring seamless FWA connectivity due to mmWave’s propagation issues. Customer complaints regarding hub placement may impact T-Mobile’s margin, emphasizing the need for careful consideration in addressing these concerns.
Despite the potential benefits, T-Mobile must navigate the complexities of deploying mmWave in venues and stadiums. Unlike consumer-focused strategies, these deployments necessitate meticulous planning, posing additional challenges associated with mmWave spectrum.
As T-Mobile refines its approach to leverage mmWave, industry watchers anticipate how this strategic shift will impact the competitive landscape of 5G networks in the US.