T-Mobile was able to claim the first US 5G network thanks to its 600 MHz spectrum, but it immediately started managing-down expectations, so what was the point?
Multiple reports are claiming TMUS has been telling its excited punters that the speed increase with 5G will be, on average, around 20%. That’s a pretty major anti-climax after all the hype suggesting 5G would be ten times faster and all that. As ever with the tendency of US operator marketing departments to massively over-promise, they have to confront the facts on the ground sooner or later.
Having said all that it’s important to stress that early tests of the TMUS 5G network have, at times, yielded speed increases far greater than that average (which also implies there are other times there will be now increase at all, or even a decrease). PC Mag has done a good job of initial testing and found results vary according to the expected factors such as distance from the cell and time of day.
PC Mag concludes that, while TMUS’s 5G does represent an upgrade over its 4G service, the improvement is neither so great nor consistent enough to get too excited about. Elsewhere VentureBeat, Cnet, and Slashgear offer similarly nuanced reports that all agree there’s a limited amount to get too excited about at this stage.
Meanwhile the Houston Chronicle was so underwhelmed it had a bit of a moan to TMUS and got the following statement in response. “In some places, 600 MHz 5G will be a lot faster than LTE. In others, customers won’t see as much difference. On average, customers with a 600 MHz 5G phone should see a 20 percent download speed boost on top of what T-Mobile’s LTE network delivers, and with the New T-Mobile they can expect that to get exponentially faster over time, just like we saw when 4G was first introduced.”
That’s all fair enough but it still feels like a pretty major climb-down from all the utopian noise we’ve been getting the US about 5G. TMUS even had the nerve to attack its competitors for over-hyping 5G earlier this week, only to then release the above statement. While there is some special sauce in 5G NR, the main bandwidth improvements are derived from simply using the fatter pipes available at higher frequencies.
The reason there’s all this spectrum available at higher bands is that it’s pretty rubbish for telecommunications. It has short range and poor propagation characteristics. So while the use of 600 MHz technically enables nationwide 5G, the kind of 5G that has been promised will only arrive once operators have added a zillion small cells to transmit higher frequencies and that won’t happen for a while.