You might’ve been wondering in the midst of all the shouting from AT&T, Sprint and Verizon about their 5G device pickups where T-Mobile was. It’s been promoting the wide coverage of its countrywide 600MHz spectrum as the vessel for this new medium of connectivity — it even partnered with Nokia to perform a 5G test connection on those airwaves recently.
Well, PCMag read between the lines of what Qualcomm’s frequently-touted Snapdragon X50 modem is able to support in terms of signals and has found that it will support bands in the millimeter wave bands — that’s double-digit gigahertz spectrum with massive throughput, but cramped range — and below the 6GHz level.
However, the catch is that support does not extend to sub-6GHz bands using Frequency Division Duplex connectivity. FDD allows cell traffic to be managed with allocations of the total bandwidth available. FDD is used with most bands including Band 71, the 600MHz area we’re talking about.
What about Sprint? It plans on using its trove of stockpiled 2.5GHz spectrum for 5G and that’s below 6GHz, right? Well, Band 41 uses Time Division Duplex technology, which allows devices to access the tower on split-second intervals.
As Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon said that the Snapdragon X50 modem, when paired with the Snapdragon 855 chipset, would support “all of the first half of 2019 launches,” and as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon have announced hardware carriage agreements in that period and T-Mobile has not, it seems that the Un-carrier will be waiting a while for even a hotspot to come online.
It’s more likely that T-Mobile will be able to go nationwide with 5G coverage in 2020 — perhaps in time for the first 5G iPhone — but between now and then, it’ll be anyone’s guess when any consumer will be able to meaningfully use 5G on T-Mobile.
Qualcomm has been slow to spill some of the finer details on how 5G will be executed in its early days from both the telecom supply and consumer demand sides, leaving its partners to deliver the good and bad news.