T-Mobile US Promises a 5G Network by 2020

By Drew FitzGeraldFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

T-Mobile US Inc. said it would deploy fifth-generation wireless technology nationwide by 2020, setting an aggressive goal for itself as bigger rivals lay the groundwork for their own network upgrades.

The pledge, issued Tuesday, came as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. are pouring billions of dollars into wireless airwave licenses that might support 5G. The value of one spectrum-holding company, Straight Path Communications Inc., soared last month as the two longtime telecommunication companies launched competing bids to acquire it.

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These companies are focusing on 5G networks to meet the demands of customers who consume more video and other bandwidth-intensive services on their phones. Engineers have spent years testing the capabilities of 5G technology while struggling to define what it is. A trade group called the 3rd Generation Partnership Project is still writing the standards that electronics makers will use to make 5G-compatible phones and radios.

The technology is already advanced enough to download enormous amounts of data in field trials, said Ted Rappaport, a professor at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering. Faster processors will also allow the cellular system to send and receive information more quickly, allowing them to support data-intensive applications like high-definition TV and three-dimensional videoconferencing.

"Just like 4G ushered in the world of YouTube and Uber," so will 5G standards pave the way for technologies not yet developed for people on the go, Mr. Rappaport said. "More applications we haven't even thought of will come online."

AT&T and Verizon have also tested 5G ideas on equipment used to beam information into homes. The high-frequency spectrum used by Straight Path and others can carry massive amounts of data over short distances, though T-Mobile just spent $8 billion to acquire more conventional low-band spectrum that travels farther.

Both Verizon and AT&T say they have a jump on T-Mobile and expect to offer 5G in some U.S. markets by 2018, though cellphones capable of using it could take longer to develop.

Write to Drew FitzGerald at andrew.fitzgerald@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 02, 2017 13:29 ET (17:29 GMT)