5G networks start arriving later this year, but it’s hard to really feel the difference between 4G and 5G without seeing the demos. So T-Mobile will drive a truck around the country to show off what the company says will be its upcoming mobile 5G experience.
T-Mobile’s truck will visit Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Orlando, Las Vegas, and Washington D.C. this year, says T-Mobile network technology services director Erin Raney.
If you’ve been following 5G, the demos will sound pretty familiar; if not, you’ll be seeing the future. T-Mobile will be showing off augmented and virtual reality demos and drone video streaming, for instance. These are all things you can do in a shaky fashion over 4G, if you’re lucky, but they’ll become much easier on 5G. The truck has a 28GHz 5G cell on board, and it will simulate other 5G experiences using 4G and Wi-Fi.
“It’s very important to have the ability to talk about next-generation tech through tangible examples that help all of us understand what’s in it for us,” said T-Mobile VP of radio network development Karri Kuoppamaki.
We’ve seen these demos from other vendors, but they haven’t been out on the road. In May, we checked out Verizon’s New York incubator, where startups and academics were planning 8K surveillance-camera systems and virtual reality physical therapy setups.
T-Mobile is walking a bit of a tightrope with its 5G launch plans, because it’s in the middle of trying to convince the government that it should merge with Sprint. T-Mobile has said the merger will let the combined company build a better 5G network. But at the same time, execs have said at conferences in Barcelona and Brooklyn that they can build a 5G network by themselves just fine.
T-Mobile currently plans to build its 5G network on 600MHz and 28GHz spectrum, according to a press release. That combines a “slow” (but still faster than 4G) nationwide network with smaller hotspots of multi-gigabit speeds. Sprint, on the other hand, has 2.5GHz spectrum that can better balance range and speeds.
“[The merger] is really about bringing mid-band spectrum to 5G faster and deeper,” Kuoppamaki said. “As T-Mobile, What we heard in Barcelona and Brooklyn is still true.”
T-Mobile plans to launch mobile 5G early next year. Take a look at its demo truck in the video above.