T-Mobile launches 2.5 GHz in Philadelphia, tees up NYC for entire layer cake

Citing the “furious pace” at which it’s advancing 5G, T-Mobile US today announced that it’s already lighting up 2.5 GHz spectrum in parts of Philadelphia, where it’s reporting peak speeds of 600 Mbps.

T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray teased on April 1 that Philadelphia was already getting the mid-band spectrum treatment, and he said via a YouTube video today that it's just the beginning. Customers across the country will benefit from this “super-charged 5G,” he said.

New York City will be up next, where customers will be the first to have access to T-Mobile’s entire “layer cake” of low-band, mid-band and millimeter wave spectrum. The company didn’t say when New York City will be launched but it will use 28 GHz there on top of 600 MHz and 2.5 GHz.

The addition of the 2.5 GHz spectrum initially in Philadelphia will give customers more capacity and speed. T-Mobile launched its 5G network there using 600 MHz last year but Sprint didn’t offer 5G in Philly. Sprint did, however, launch its 5G in New York City, so that requires a different type of transition, according to Karri Kuoppamaki, vice president, Technology Development and Strategy at T-Mobile.

RELATED: T-Mobile seeks OK to use 2.5 GHz in Philadelphia

That the new T-Mobile is able to launch 2.5 GHz in Philadelphia this soon after closing the deal with Sprint is a feat in itself. T-Mobile started paving the way last year by working with infrastructure vendors and soon after the merger was closed, they were able to repurpose the spectrum, he said.

T-Mobile Philly

T-Mobile executives on more than one occasion have said the length of time it took to get the deal done – about two years – actually worked in their favor in the sense that they could lay a lot of the groundwork for when the 2.5 GHz became available to the combined entity.  

“This is a very, very solid proof point that we don’t just talk the talk but walk the walk,” and execute successfully, Kuoppamaki told FieceWireless. COVID-19 is affecting everything, but they’re able to respect the social distancing that’s required as crews work outside. “It is not having an impact on our plans, no delays,” he said.

RELATED: T-Mobile’s network build ‘on track’ despite COVID-19

It’s worth pointing out that it wasn’t that long ago when T-Mobile was sort of “ho hum” on 2.5 GHz, but that was before the T-Mobile/Sprint merger transaction officially got underway and finally closed on April 1, 2020.

A key technology in Sprint’s strategy has been Massive MIMO, which is an integral part of 5G technology and it will play a role in the new T-Mobile network as well, Kuoppamaki said. Former Sprint CTO John Saw, who is now executive vice president of Advanced and Emerging Technologies at the new T-Mobile, previously has said Massive MIMO would make for a faster integration.

RELATED: Editor’s Corner—Will the value of Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum treasure trove finally be fully realized?

Low-band 5G footprint expands

T-Mobile also announced that it’s expanding its nationwide 5G footprint to include Detroit, St. Louis and Columbus, Ohio.

In addition, legacy Sprint customers with the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G smartphone will get nationwide 5G, tapping into T-Mobile’s 5G network in more than 5,000 cities and towns starting later this month. In areas where Sprint doesn’t have LTE coverage but T-Mobile does, those Sprint users are getting access to T-Mobile’s LTE.

Of course, all of the big benefits won’t happen overnight. T-Mobile said the addition of the mid-band spectrum will boost average 5G speeds for customers nationwide up to eight times faster than current LTE in just a few years, and 15 times faster than current LTE over the next six years.

Among its commitments to get the merger with Sprint approved by the government, T-Mobile pledged to cover 99% of the U.S. population with 5G in six years. And it’s well on its way, according to Kuoppamaki.

“I’m used to us moving fast but when we do something like this even I’m a little bit amazed at the speed we can execute these things on. It’s quite amazing,” he said. “5G for All is not just a tag line without any substance. We actually mean it.”

For those keeping track, here's a list of 5G devices and the bands supported, according to T-Mobile:

  • LG V60 ThinQ (600 MHz, 2.5 GHz)
  • OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren (600 MHz, 2.5 GHz)
  • OnePlus 8 5G (600 MHz, 2.5 GHz) – coming soon
  • Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G (600 MHz)
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (mmWave)
  • Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G (600 MHz, 2.5 GHz, mmWave)
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 5G (600 MHz, 2.5 GHz)
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G (600 MHz, 2.5 GHz, mmWave)