T-Mobile lights up first 600 MHz site in Cheyenne, Wyoming

T-Mobile flipped the switch on the first of its 600 MHz sites, making good on a promise to start deploying its new airwaves this summer.

The nation’s third-largest carrier said it launched service on the spectrum in Cheyenne, Wyoming, using Nokia equipment. T-Mobile vowed to roll out 600 MHz at a “record-shattering pace” starting in rural markets where the airwaves have been cleared by the TV broadcasters that once controlled that spectrum, “compressing what would normally be a two-year process from auction to consumer availability” in 6 months.

T-Mobile was the top bidder in the 600 MHz incentive auction that ended in April, agreeing to pony up nearly $8 billion for the low-band airwaves. The operator plans to use the spectrum to increase its presence in rural and suburban markets after focusing primarily on urban markets in the last few years.

While the FCC is sticking with a 39-month repacking plan to free up 600 MHz spectrum for wireless use, T-Mobile has moved aggressively to tap its new airwaves more quickly. The carrier said in June it would cover the costs for rural public TV low-power facilities to relocate to new frequencies, and it worked with the 3GPP to help hammer out specifications for the airwaves in May.

“To meet this aggressive timeline for getting this super-spectrum into customers’ hands, T-Mobile has been coordinating closely with the infrastructure providers, chipset makers and device manufacturers to bring 600 MHz LTE to customers at breakneck speed,” the carrier crowed in an announcement this morning.

“Nokia and Qualcomm have launched new technology, and both Samsung and LG plan to launch phones that tap into this new spectrum in the fourth quarter of this year,” the company noted in its statement. And whereas some of its competitors are focused almost exclusively on using mid- and high-band spectrum for 5G offerings, T-Mobile continues to maintain that some of its new 600 MHz spectrum holdings will support next-generation services.

T-Mobile said it owns an average of 31 MHz of 600 MHz licenses “that can cover every single American across the nation with low-band spectrum that reaches twice as far and is four times better in buildings than mid-band,” providing an opportunity for it to launch the country’s first nationwide 5G network.

T-Mobile said it plans to add 600 MHz sites later this year in other small to medium-sized markets in Maine, Pennsylvania, Texas, the Oklahoma panhandle and elsewhere. The carrier will surely support that expansion with the continued rollout of new retail stores in those locations.