Speaking on Sept. 21 at the CCA 2021 Annual Convention in Phoenix, T-Mobile’s Dow Draper touted his company’s massive, $40 billion multiyear plan to offer 5G broadband plans nationwide for rural, suburban and urban markets — and revealed its latest forays into the home internet market. That same morning, T-Mobile announced it had expanded its 5G T-Mobile Home Internet into 51 cities and towns in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Draper, executive vice president of emerging products at T-Mobile, said he believes his carrier (dubbed the “Un-carrier” in a company marketing campaign) is fast becoming a serious competitor to the much-maligned cable companies — and is seeking to disrupt their monopolistic business practices. He said that T-Mobile has partnered with YouTube TV and now offers dynamic 5G home internet and TV plans that are half the price that cable companies charge, with new and better fixed-wireless technologies that eliminate broadband gaps.
“We’ve taken all the crap out of cable,” Draper said. “T-Mobile Home Internet means no more unwanted TV stations in packages, no cable holes drilled in your home’s walls, no waiting for the cable guy, no hidden fees and taxes, no contracts, no price increases.” A Nokia-made T-Mobile Home Internet Gateway serves as modem and router, creating 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi home networks. The fixed price is about $55 a month for the high-speed internet and about $50 more to add home TV.
Looking at T-Mobile’s bigger picture, Draper said, “The pandemic really changed many things but it also highlighted the importance of high-speed internet.” He said Sprint and T-Mobile coming together has created unheard-of 5G synergies in the wireless industry — particularly related to the fixed wireless internet.
“We have an opportunity to significantly improve our growth and penetration in small markets in rural America,” Draper said. “Sprint and T-Mobile had very low penetration in those markets before, but together we’re expanding coverage, we’re deploying our long-range 5G capacity and even our ultra-capacity 5G. So, this gives us a chance to be very relevant in our coverage and to continue expanding that to bring our ‘un-carrier’ ways to customers, including home internet.”
Draper said that T-Mobile’s most important endeavor is probably its quickly expanding network. “We are building a network the likes of which this country has never seen,” he said. “It’s a $40 billion, multiyear investment — and we are driving super-hard to realize this opportunity.” In fact, T-Mobile has committed to the FCC that it will build out 5G in rural markets over the next few years, providing 99 percent of Americans with access to speeds of at least 50 Mbps and 90 percent of the U.S. population with speeds of at least 100 Mbps.
“When Sprint and T-Mobile merged,” Draper said, “the spectrum positions available to the company allow it pursue a strategy that T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray called the ‘layer cake.’ That means we have low-band spectrum of extended range 5G that allows us to drive lots of coverage. We have deep, deep capacity in our mid-band spectrum that allow us to deliver the capacity needed to serve so many applications, and so many services at high speeds. Of course, we have millimeter-wave on top that allow us in targeted area to deliver capacity that we need. Our competitors just did the millimeter-wave. They had to follow our strategy and are two years behind.”
Draper expects T-Mobile to enjoy a significant 5G advantage for years to come. He said the company’s biggest challenge is how to bridge the nation’s urban, suburban and, especially, rural broadband gap. “We think there are ways to do this other than running cable,” he said. “Solving the nation’s broadband gap is going to take multiple technologies — satellite, fiber, fixed wiring and cable. But Americans need solutions now, and T-Mobile offers a great solution — that’s our fixed wiring internet.”
T-Mobile now covers more than 305 million people with its Extended Range 5G network — “nearly everyone in the country,” Draper said, “covering 1.7 million square miles — more than AT&T and Verizon combined.” According to T-Mobile, 150 million of those people are covered with Ultra Capacity 5G, which can deliver download speeds of 350 Mbps with peaks up to 1 Gbps.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we will still have millions without high-speed internet,” Draper said. “In fact, the Biden administration says there are 30 million household with no access to high-speed internet. We’re deploying 5G at capacity across the entire country, but these things take time to build.”
Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.