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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

T-Mobile rolls out 5G service in Spokane area this week

T-Mobile is rolling out its fifth-generation wireless network nationwide this week, but Spokane customers shouldn’t expect to see blazing fast speeds just yet.

Although T-Mobile is expanding 5G to 5,000 cities nationwide, including Spokane and Spokane Valley, the new wireless service is a 600 MHz, low-band spectrum that is the foundation for ultra-fast speeds in the future.

T-Mobile is deploying the foundational layer for 5G coverage to reach more customers and bridge the digital divide for customers in rural areas.

“Most customers will see around a 20% increase in speed over LTE,” T-Mobile spokesman Joel Rushing said Monday.

The service is included on T-Mobile’s wireless plans at no extra charge, but customers will need a 5G compatible device to access the network.

The wireless carrier is releasing two compatible phones in stores Friday, the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren and Samsung Galaxy Note10+5G, in addition to a prepaid 5G plan, Metro by T-Mobile.

Experts say full-fledged 5G will be 100 times faster than 4G, with virtually no latency and speeds able to support smart cities, real-time language translation, smart-home technology and self-driving cars.

“It will change how we communicate and do everyday things, not only on the consumer side, but on the infrastructure side with robotics and automated, connected vehicles that can share information on a very large scale,” said Subhanshu Gupta, assistant professor at WSU’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

If T-Mobile’s $26.5 billion acquisition of Sprint is approved, the carrier intends to add a 2.5 GHz mid-band frequency to further enhance its coverage area and continue add technology and infrastructure to support faster 5G speeds but transmits signal over a shorter distance.

T-Mobile anticipates its full 5G service will be available by 2024 with download speeds up to 450 Mbps. It has published maps for customers to help them determine if they will have access to 5G service.

“Over time, as we continue to build that out and add extra layers, we will see overall improvements over the next few years,” Rushing said.

However, attorneys general in several states are attempting to block the T-Mobile and Sprint merger – based on antitrust grounds – with a trial scheduled to begin Monday. The merger was approved by the Federal Communication Commission and the Department of Justice earlier this year.

U.S. telecom companies anticipate investing more than $275 billion over the next five years to build next-generation 5G networks nationwide, according to wireless trade organization CTIA. Additionally, they expect to invest more than $262 million into building 5G networks in the Spokane area that could generate $486 million in economic growth, according to the organization.

The city of Spokane, Spokane Valley and Spokane County have approved measures in recent years allowing installation of small cell antennas to support 5G networks on utility poles and street lamps.

AT&T rolled out low-spectrum 5G in 12 cities this year with plans to expand service nationwide by 2020. Sprint launched 5G in mid-band frequency earlier this year in nine cities. Verizon offers 5G service in 18 major cities with plans to reach 30 major metros by next year.

“We’ll see more solutions coming through Verizon and AT&T in the next year that will use the higher frequency (for 5G), but will be a little different in cost structure or price,” said Gupta, the WSU professor. “It will allow us to get more data very quickly and it will definitely improve on what we have currently.”