The 5G question has long been carts and horses. The next-generation wireless network has always been an inevitability, of course, but the rollout has always felt a bit piecemeal. T-Mobile, to its credit, is looking to flip the switch all at once (kind of), launching a “nationwide” deployment of 5G to a coverage area it says will reach 200 million of the U.S.’s 327 million residents.
The 600MHz low-band network goes live today, fulfilling the promise of 5G in 2019 with nearly a month to spare. That coincides with the pre-order of two 5G-enabled handsets, from OnePlus and Samsung. The OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren Edition, at least, is a T-Mobile exclusive here in the States.
It’s a premium as far as OnePlus goes, but still arrives at the (relatively) low price of $900. Compare that to the $1,300 Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G. Both are officially going on sale on Friday, and should be able to connect to the new network at launch.
T-Mobile’s clearly being more deliberate in its roll out here, fighting the urge to plant its flag. Instead, the carrier’s network will be available in wider swaths of land versus the competition’s neighborhood to neighborhood approach. And while the network isn’t expected to be as fast as other solutions, it should reach indoors better — a pretty key differentiator.
As CNET notes, it’s still fairly piecemeal in certain respects — the existing millimeter 5G wave network won’t work with the new devices. Nor will older devices work with the new network. Much of this move appears to be in anticipation of T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint.
The ability to compete with AT&T and Verizon on the 5G front has always been the key selling point of such a merger. Though reducing the field from four players down to three to increase competition has always seemed a dubious claim, at best.