After a lot of prep and more than a little hype, T-Mobile is finally flipping the switch on its 5G network today (a few days ahead of its previously announced December 6th launch date), so here’s a quick overview of what’s changing.
Following the launch of Verizon’s 5G network in April and Sprint’s 5G network at the end of May, T-Mobile is now the U.S.’s third carrier to launch a consumer 5G cell network. (AT&T does have live 5G networks live, but up until last week, it was only available for business customers, while consumer 5G is currently limited to select customers in Pittsburgh, Providence, and a few other cities.)
However, unlike Verizon, whose 5G network is based solely on mmWave signal and Sprint whose main 5G coverage is based on its mid-band 2.5-Ghz spectrum, T-Mobile’s 5G offerings are based largely on its 600-Mhz spectrum (aka “Sub-6 GHz 5G”), which prioritizes range and coverage instead of the super-high data speeds often touted by Verizon and Sprint’s 5G networks.
T-Mobile claims that at launch, its 5G network will cover more than 60 percent of the U.S., or around 200 million people and more than 5,000 towns, and unlike Verizon, T-Mobile’s 5G service is included for free as part of a standard T-Mobile Plan, which means no extra fees for 5G (at least for now).
You can see a full coverage map here or by checking out the map above, though it may be somewhat difficult to tell if you’re covered as magenta on top of light pink isn’t exactly the most easy-to-read color scheme.
Thankfully, T-Mobile has also provided a massive chart listing all of the cities and towns its 5G network currently covers. That said, just having 5G coverage in your area is only one piece of the puzzle, as anyone interested in getting 5G service will also need a compatible 5G device that works with T-Mobile’s 600 MHz spectrum.
So alongside the launch of its 5G network, T-Mobile is also announcing support for two 5G phones in the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G, with both available for pre-order today before official sales start on December 6th. Both phones are pretty expensive, with the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren featuring a full retail price of $900, with the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G priced even higher at $1,300. That said, thanks to a new deal, it’s possible to get a new 5G phone from T-Mobile for free, if you don’t mind jumping through a few hoops.
For customers new to T-Mobile, you can get a OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren for free (via 24 monthly bill credits) when switching to T-Mobile from another carrier and trading in an eligible device. Meanwhile, T-Mobile is offering a buy one get one free deal for the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G for customers who also add a new line of service (or sign up for two lines when switching to T-Mo from another carrier.)
Still, at least for now, T-Mobile’s 5G service is still very much a work in progress as today’s launch doesn’t mention support for T-Mobile’s mmWave spectrum (which we previewed earlier this year), with T-Mobile even saying that at launch it’s 5G service is generally targeted at early adopters.
In the end, the most important part about today’s announcement is that with the launch of its 5G network, T-Mobile mostly made good on its promise to launch nationwide 5G before the end of 2019.
Right now, it’s still too early to worry about if you have 5G coverage or not, because T-Mobile’s current service doesn’t include any additional coverage it will get from its merger with Sprint, which still has yet to be fully finalized. So if you’re not in the market for a new phone just so you can get 5G, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to upgrade in the short term.