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T-Mobile delays 5G launch until the second half of the year

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T-Mobile chief technology officer Neville Ray said 5G will be a theme for the second half of the year for the company.

Roger Cheng / CNET

Eager to get on the T-Mobile 5G network? Well, you'll have to wait a little longer.

Neville Ray, chief technology officer at T-Mobile, said in an interview that the company would not formally launch its 5G service in its first thirty cities until the second half of 2019. A year ago, Ray told CNET that the launch will be during the first half of the year.

Ray said at the time he hoped that phone and processor manufacturers would be ready to have a phone that could be connected to his 600 megahertz band of spectrum, which is the one that uses the power of 5G in much of the country. Samsung's first 5G smart phone, the Galaxy S10 5G, uses a high frequency compatible with Verizon, AT&T and Print networks. T-Mobile is rolling out the same bands now, but coverage is too limited for the company to promote it.

Ray's statement is the boldface in 5G race rice, as operators move forward to be the first to use next-generation wireless technology, which promises a much faster and more responsive network. AT&T has already launched 5G in a dozen markets, but in limited areas, while Verizon has a 5G home network. Sprint, meanwhile, said it plans to launch 5G in four markets in May.

The delay also underscores the complexity of building a 5G network and the bets that companies must make on what kind of spectrum they can use. Verizon and AT&T initially defended the millimeter wave spectrum because it can offer very high speeds, but with a limited range. T-Mobile opted for a lower band spectrum that has a slower peak, but better coverage.

Much of the initial investment goes to devices that use a millimeter wave spectrum. While Ray said that T-Mobile would sell the Galaxy S10 5G, he was unsure whether it would even market the benefits, as the company's own millimeter wave implementation was very limited.

In addition, he assured that he was not concerned that AT&T and Verizon would advance in the 5G race due to the limited millimeter wave range.

"You can't reach out to the American consumer and charge him a high amount if you only operate on three streets," added Ray.

Also, Ray applauded Sprint for at least taking the risk and ensuring he would cover more than 1,000 square miles during the first half of the year. Expect to hear about AT&T and Verizon coverage plans.

AT&T boasts its existing service and plans to come.

"We currently offer the only active and device 5G mobile network and we continue to expand our coverage and options on devices. I am surprised that they continue to ignore our announced plans to offer a low-band 5G mobile network in the spectrum this year with national coverage for early 2020, "said an AT&T spokesperson.

Verizon was not available for comment.

Ray added that the company will go big with 5G during the second half of the year once they get a device that can connect in its 600 MHz band. Declin will comment on which company will be the provider of the phone.


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