Telecom companies jostle for 5G leadership months away from expected rollout
Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon all said on earnings calls that they would be leading the way on the tech.
With months to go until the planned rollout of 5G, the country's major telecommunications companies are all adamant they will be the first with the technology and are ramping up the war of words.
On separate earnings calls this week and last to discuss recent profits and other initiatives with investors, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon and AT&T all touted their work to bring 5G to the United States, with pledges to start phasing in service by the end of this year.
Based on the rhetoric on its latest earnings call for Q2, T-Mobile is perhaps the most bullish on its 5G endeavors, especially after its recent deal with Nokia worth $3.5 billion to supply the infrastructure for its 5G rollout.
"We are all in on 5G," Neville Ray, Chief Technology Officer at T-Mobile, said in a statement after the deal was announced. "Every dollar we spend is a 5G dollar, and our agreement with Nokia underscores the kind of investment we're making to bring customers a mobile, nationwide 5G network. And together with Sprint, we'll be able to do So. Much. More.”
And on its earnings call this week, T-Mobile CEO John Legere emphasized the company's ambitious roadmap for 5G, set to begin by the end of the year, with the first 5G-ready smartphones available to buy in 2019. "Our plan continues to be to bring 5G to 30 cities in 2018, starting with New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas and Las Vegas, with nationwide coverage coming in 2020," Legere said on the call.
Legere said that T-Mobile's planned acquisition of Sprint is "making great progress" after the companies filed its preliminary S-4 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registering information related to the merger.
"While we still have a number of steps remaining in the regulatory approval process, we are optimistic and confident that regulators will recognize the significant pro-competitive benefits of this combination and grant regulatory approval," Legere said. Later, he added that the deal will be "pro-consumer and all about supercharging the un-carrier and about bringing broad and deep nationwide 5G to Americans as fast as possible.”
On its latest earnings call, Sprint echoed the benefits of the merger, which has been subject to scrutiny recently in the U.S. Senate over antitrust concerns, but was described as a “transformative transaction” by Sprint CEO Michel Combes on the call.
"This combination will accelerate U.S. leadership opportunity to rapidly bring the best nationwide 5G network to market with the breadth and depth needed to fuel a giant wave of innovation and disruption throughout the entire marketplace, including rural America," Combes said. “Furthermore, our merger with T-Mobile will mean the acceleration of an even greater 5G network with the breadth and depth that we could not do on our own."
Combes also said that the company expects to provide "services and devices in the first half of 2019," while Sprint Chief Technology Officer John Saw said on the call the company has been "very excited and pleased" with the tests it has already done.
Sprint has announced nine cities where it will roll out 5G in early 2019 and use Massive MIMO antenna to help with the infrastructure, which Saw said has provided "pleasant surprises in terms of how it improved the uplink performance and the coverage size."
Meanwhile, Verizon recently announced Houston as the third city where it will roll out 5G, and on its own earnings call CEO Lowell McAdam said the company will soon announce a fourth, joining Houston, Sacramento, CA and Los Angeles.
"We have driven the 5G ecosystem by pushing the industry to adopt the next generation several years ahead of original expectations, and we are positioned to be the clear leader in the deployment of 5G services based on our technological expertise, asset base, engineering talent and spectrum portfolio," McAdam said, according to a transcript of the call.
And on AT&T's recent earnings call, AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan said its 5G trials in South Bend, IN and Waco, TX are going well, while its widely-criticized 5G Evolution technology is now in more than 140 markets covering nearly 100 million people. The company said it is still on track to launch 5G in six cities by the end of the year, while in a briefing book for investors it noted several initiatives around the technology as it continues to run tests.
That included a trial at the U.S. Open Golf Championships earlier this year, where AT&T's spectrum was used to transmit video via 5G from a wireless camera at the course’s seventh hole to the production truck of broadcaster FOX Sports, which used the footage in its broadcast to DIRECTV customers.
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