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T-Mobile says mmWave 5G is not going to work for rural America

By Greg S · 17 replies
Apr 23, 2019
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  1. Verizon and AT&T both claim to have deployed 5G networking in select areas, but T-Mobile is pushing a very different message. The un-carrier is speaking up about the lack of coverage that 5G is likely to provide to rural America in its current state. The digital divide will not be lessened if 5G roll outs continue to rely on high frequency mmWave technology.

    According to T-Mobile, Verizon's 5G offering currently is exclusively reliant on mmWave frequencies, preventing it from ever having a chance to "reach rural America." AT&T is further criticized for continuing to intentionally mislead consumers with its 5Ge branding on what is actually 4G LTE services.

    One of the major problems associated with mmWave spectrum is the lack of ability to penetrate obstacles. As frequencies continue to grow into the double-digit gigahertz range, longer range cell towers become impractical to implement.

    T-Mobile was even kind enough to produce a treasure hunt map for Verizon as an attempt to explain to consumers why 5G is really not ready yet for mainstream adoption. Verizon does not have a 5G coverage map yet, likely because it would be embarrassingly limited, but T-Mobile has pledged to published an accurate coverage map once their 5G services come online.

    Although T-Mobile has not given a hard deadline for when 5G will be deployed, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is supposed to be the first phone on their network to support it.

    Instead of the mmWave technology that T-Mobile has criticized as being ineffective outside of densely populated urban areas, the company is banking on successfully merging with Sprint. Sharing spectrum licensing with Sprint would give T-Mobile access to the 2.5GHz mid-band that has much wider coverage possibilities. Combining the higher throughput mid-band with existing low-band coverage and selectively implementing mmWave cell sites would allow for more reliable coverage even if speeds are not always drastically higher than current LTE services.

    The latest initiative to provide 5G for all sounds good in theory, but we will have to wait and see how the final implementation actually turns out.

    Permalink to story.

  2. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 662   +490

    T-mobile can't even get any signal 10 minutes outside of my major metropolitan on any wireless signal technology, so how would they expect their 5G could? That is why I cancelled them about 5 years ago. Have they improved any over the last several years?
  3. Hexic

    Hexic TS Evangelist Posts: 479   +307

    I admittedly do not currently have TMo, however I have heard through friends and other online sources that their coverage and reliability have improved significantly from what it was 5-10 years ago.

    To what degree I’m unsure, but I’ve been consistently told they’ve shown improvement.
    ShagnWagn likes this.
  4. Jeff Re

    Jeff Re TS Addict Posts: 143   +105

    It really depends on where you are. In northern Minnesota they have had some of the best coverage for years but I've been to cities in Central Wisconsin where their coverage is still almost nonexistent.
    ShagnWagn likes this.
  5. yRaz

    yRaz Nigerian Prince Posts: 2,823   +2,078

    In my 4 years with T-Mobile I have found 3 places that I don't get service. My basement, my buddies horse farm and the toilet at work.

    The idea that TMobile is still some budget carrier with no service is silly.

    Actually, now that I think about it, TMobile is more reliable than the wireless internet connection in my house
  6. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,754   +1,490

    Yet, Mr PAI and Mr Trump are funding 5G for rural buildout -- massive ignorance and misuse of public funds.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
    Black Paper likes this.
  7. Satish Mallya

    Satish Mallya TechSpot Staff Posts: 185   +169

    Recently jumped ship from TMO - the coverage is pretty good (I.e. you'll have bars). However, the underlying infrastructure is iffy - even though the signal has been established, the network has real trouble moving data over it - 0.02 mbps (small b) down on full signal near my office (Atlanta).

    Note that this is my personal experience, and may not hold true for everyone. I'll even say that I've been pleasantly surprised by the quality of service in other cities. Sometimes.
  8. antiproduct

    antiproduct TS Addict Posts: 102   +87

    I recently left AT&T for T-Mobile, the coverage is pretty much the same (large city in CA). Only noticed a couple places (a hospital was one) where I didn't have signal. Luckily there was WiFi, so that kinda worked. The signal at my house is about one bar better. So maybe not quite as good, but it's sooooooo much less expensive than AT&T was. Also, I got really sick of AT&T constantly raising rates on my old unlimited plan. At this point I'm saving about $65/mo, which basically pays for a new phone every year, if I wanted one. Oh, also I used their $50/mo international plan (5GB data/unlimited calling and text) when I was in Europe recently, that worked great, especially compared to the cost and features of the other big cell phone companies for that sort of thing.
    jobeard and wiyosaya like this.
  9. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,721   +2,080

    I've been on T-mobile for over seven years now. For cell service, I do not have a data plan, but for the most part, except very rural areas, I have no complaints. Also, I just got rid of my Samsung Smiley https://www.cnet.com/reviews/samsung-smiley-black-t-mobile-review/ phone for a Moto X4, and the difference in reception and call quality is drastic - the X4 being substantially better.

    That said, I am also on T-mobile for my home internet through MVNO Dyanmi Wireless https://dynamiwireless.com/ which is basically more for rural areas, but I am in a metropolitan area - I have a T-mobile tower about 1/4-mile straight-line from my home with an outdoor antenna. It is a data only plan. Basically, I got totally fed up with Spectrum, and even though this service is more expensive, it is more reliable and almost always faster than Spectrum was. I get 30Mbps down and about 2-3 Mbps up. I have not seen any noticeable data throttling even though most months I am at around 100GB - and the service is supposed to perhaps start throttling after 50GB.

    Having said that - I am in line for 500Mbps down 50Mbps up fiber for $50/mo and when that is installed, I will drop the T-mobile plan for obvious reasons. Interestingly enough, when on the T-mobile data service, my location changes to various metropolitan areas none of which have ever been in my state, but I notice no difference in speed.

    So, for me, T-mobile has been reasonably good. Note: I have never had any other provider. T-mobile has been my only one.

    For me, I think it is great that T-mobile is telling it like it is for 5G. mm wave just does not have the range or abilities of lower frequencies, though it does have a higher data capacity. Anyone can verify this with the info out there on the net for 5G.

    I would have to say that most of the problems with providers like AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum, etc., is :poop: marketing intended to take money out of your wallet and put it into theirs - at any cost.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2019
  10. Roush60

    Roush60 TS Rookie Posts: 20   +11

    As a former wireless switch and field technician holding a FCC 2nd class radio technician license, I could have told them that before they even attempted to implement 5G in rural areas. I was on the ground floor when the first cellular carrier opened up in my hometown as a Cellular One affiliate. We opened with just 3 sites in the beginning, to cover our 3 largest communities and the three major US highways in the 9 county coverage areas. I lost count of the number of arguments I had with the RF site design engineer and won by being proven right with coverage testing during site commision and turn up. All of the sites were in the 800 MHz bands in the beginning and I had a LOT of experience with 800 MHz equipment having worked with 800 MHz Motorola trunking systems in my previous job as a service and repair tech for a Motorola affiliated two-way radio service company. What a lot of RF engineers fail to calculate accurately is the absorption rate of various tree canopy materials during the spring-summer growing period, in particular a canopy full of pine trees in the south. In one case, the company that the engineer worked for had to pay the cost of replacing the antennas on a site when they got the rf propagation designs wrong when they didn't listen to me.
    Black Paper, p51d007 and wiyosaya like this.
  11. brucek

    brucek TS Maniac Posts: 132   +166

    Isn't the main point of 5G that it better handles large numbers of devices competing for spectrum simultaneously? (I.e., its benefits are less about making one device perform better, but more about making 1,000 concurrent devices perform better?)

    If that's true, I'm not sure it's a huge deal for a rural environment anyway, which might not have been experiencing the same sort of trouble from over-density of devices in the first place.
  12. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,721   +2,080

    Well, yes.

    However, if your implementation is mm wave only, and you are promising to bring the full benefits of 5G to areas that are not well served by mm wave, then, as I see it, that is a questionable marketing practice at the least. To me, that is not unlike ISPs promising top speeds then delivering something substantially less.
    ShagnWagn likes this.
  13. mctommy

    mctommy TS Addict Posts: 293   +67

    I was on AT&T during the 2000's and switched to T-Mobile in 2013. I went through the unlimited AT&T phase that brought AT&T data to a standstill... horrendous.

    Currently - Seattle and suburbs are fine. Couple of dead spots when traveling east. One of the first carrier to also allow free data and text roaming in Canada which makes it great when traveling to Vancouver/Whistler.

    Paying a whole lot less than Verizon and AT&T.
  14. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,894   +1,170

    Yep! I HAD a 2nd class, about 40 years ago, but I never used it. In the late 90's, our PSAP at the Sheriff's office switched from VHF high band to Moto Trunked. Our county is 678 square miles in the Missouri OZARKS, ie: hills & valley type land. Moto came in, told our sheriff (I was a weekend 911 operator) that they could hit our entire county with 2 repeaters.
    I told the sheriff, if they could, I'd eat my hat. We had places that just by the signal you would hear when a deputy keyed up the radio, pretty much would tell you where he was. Believe it or not, GEE! I was right!
    They ended up with 5 repeater towers for the entire county.
    Sometimes I think these radio engineers think everything is FLAT terrain like Kansas or something, with no buildings.
    jobeard likes this.
  15. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 662   +490

    Maybe they are all flat-earthers? ;D
    p51d007, Black Paper and dogofwars like this.
  16. dogofwars

    dogofwars TS Addict Posts: 172   +67

    LMFAO and get a new *** to compensate for the pressure difference.
  17. Khanonate

    Khanonate TS Booster Posts: 144   +26

    I have no complain, its good here in Seattle.
  18. Danny101

    Danny101 TS Guru Posts: 720   +271

    The more urbanites that can be pushed onto 5G, the better 4G and 3G will work for ruralites. Free the lines! Free up the lines! Sometimes I get better speeds on these spectrums in the city because everyone else is on LTE.

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