Thursday, December 2, 2021

T-Mobile hits its goal of 200 million covered by ‘ultra capacity’ 5G a few weeks early

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T-Mobile has announced that its “Ultra Capacity” 5G network now covers over 200 million people in the US, a goal the company had previously set to reach before the end of 2021.

T-Mobile uses its “Ultra Capacity” 5G label for its mid-band and mmWave networks, both of which offer much faster speeds than its low-band “5G Extended Range” network. The low-band network — which is closer to 4G LTE in actual speed — has an even wider reach, with T-Mobile boasting that it “covers 308 million people across 1.7 million square miles.”

The rollout here is particularly notable given T-Mobile’s success with its mid-band network — PCMag crowned the carrier as the fastest in 2021, largely due to the strength and coverage of its mid-band spectrum rollout. Meanwhile, AT&T and Verizon have seen their mid-spectrum efforts largely been put on pause: the two companies were planning on relying on C-band spectrum to shore up their mid-band coverage, but that rollout has been put on hold after FAA warnings that the networks could mess with radio-based safety systems on some planes.

Of course, there’s a big difference between “covering” that many people and actually having them use T-Mobile, and despite the celebrations here, T-Mobile only actually gives service to just a fraction of those customers. At the end of 2020, the company had just over 100 million subscribers, which is still a far cry from the 200 million people that can now theoretically access its faster 5G networks.

And just because T-Mobile’s 5G UC network has hit the milestone doesn’t mean that there’s still not a lot of work to do in building out its network further: thanks to concentrated population clusters in the US in major cities and dense urban areas, it’s comparatively easy to reach “big” coverage numbers. T-Mobile’s future rollout plans are expected to go much slower as a result, with the company hoping to reach 5G UC coverage for 300 million people over the next two years.

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