T-Mobile says its 5G network will bring home broadband to half the country

If true, this would represent a game-changing shift in the home internet market across the U.S.

By Chris Mills

Published September 28, 2018 8:00PM (EDT)


This article originally appeared on BGR.

The regulatory discussion over the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint is chugging along at the usual speed of government bureaucracy, but new details about T-Mobile’s plans post-merger are slowly leaking out. In a filing this week, T-Mobile chief operating officer Mike Sievert said that the company will use its 5G network to offer home broadband — at speeds that provide an alternative to cable or fiber — to over half the country.

Specifically, Sievert said that “The combined company will be able to offer [home broadband] to over 52 percent of zip codes across the county. New T-Mobile will cover 64 percent of Charter’s territory and 68 percent of Comcast’s territory with its in-home broadband services by 2024.” If true, this would represent a game-changing shift in the home internet market across the US, and offer a real alternative to the cable monopolies that most Americans subscribe to.

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Unfortunately, T-Mobile has already shown that it’s willing to say almost anything to get this merger through, and this may be another case of executives saying whatever the FCC wants to hear.

In the past, T-Mobile has been widely dismissive of the fixed wireless broadband services that other providers have touted. While AT&T and Verizon have both been interested in using 5G to offer home broadband from the get-go, T-Mobile has repeatedly said the technology won’t work for a wide-scale rollout. In January this year, this is what T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray had to say about fixed 5G:

Reality Check: mmW for fixed wireless is plagued with in-building penetration challenges and the looming need for external household antennas and truck rolls. There’s still a LOT we have to figure out before this becomes a feasible business model. #SorryNotSorry, Verizon.

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But in its filing with the FCC, T-Mobile is saying that it will be able to offer high-speed broadband to rural locations, all using home-installed equipment. That’s the complete opposite of what T-Mobile has been saying about fixed 5G thus far, so unless T-Mobile has secretly perfected technologies that the other carriers — who have actually been experimenting with fixed 5G — have missed, its statements don’t match up.

Here’s something that would make more sense: T-Mobile knows that rural broadband and broadband competition are two hot-button issues within the FCC right now, so it’s positioning the merger as a magical solution to those problems, without showing how its new claims match up with statements it was making less than a year ago. It’s the same thing that the company has been doing with 5G, and with prepaid wireless during this merger process — saying whatever the FCC wants to hear, with the reality a distant second.

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Chris Mills

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5g Bgr Broadband Merger T-mobile