T-Mobile says it has reached its 2021 target of faster 5G coverage for 200 million people

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Sarah Tew / CNET

T-Mobile’s lead in mid-range 5G has increased. On Monday, the airline announced that it has reached its 2021 target of getting 200 million people covered with this faster mobile network, which comes six weeks before its previously declared target by the end of this year.

The milestone leads T-Mobile to claim that its faster version of 5G is now available “nationwide” in the United States. The Federal Communications Commission describes a nationwide mobile network as one that covers 200 million people.

Rivals AT&T and Verizon have similar plans to launch their own, faster mid-range 5G network. All three national providers have spent billions of dollars on acquiring new wireless spectrum known as the C-band from the FCC this year.

AT&T and Verizon had planned to start launching these respective services in parts of some US cities by 2021, but The US Federal Aviation Administration protested due to safety concerns around this particular spectrum band in relation to the altimeters found in aircraft. The concern has prompted both airlines to postpone the broadcast until 5 January.

Prior to the FAA objection, Verizon said it was intended to cover 100 million people with its 5G middleband
to March. AT&T aimed for cover between 70 million and 75 million people by the end of 2022, expanded to over 100 million in early 2023. T-Mobile has similarly acquired some C-band spectrum, but will only be able to start implementing it by the end of 2023.

Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s president of technology, tells CNET that although his company “is not under the same pressure as AT&T and Verizon” is experiencing when it comes to using that spectrum immediately, it is working with the industry group CTIA on addressing the concerns surrounding the use of C-bands.

Ray adds that based on “the physics and benefits”, he believes that the C-band spectrum should work fine for mobile networks without disrupting airlines, and notes that this spectrum is already “being used on a global basis” for 5G in “I think something” in the direction of 40 countries today “without problems.

In addition to reaching the nationwide milestone, T-Mobile said on Monday that 80% of its customers are now within the coverage of its extended mid-range 5G network, which it calls Ultra Capacity 5G.

The carrier previously said it was targeting average download speeds of 400 Mbps on this network, which would be a remarkable step up from the 4G LTE-like performance of its low-band 5G network (as it calls the Extended Range 5G). Although slower, the latter low-band network has better coverage and now reaches 308 million people.

Read more: From 5G Ultra Wideband to 5G Ultra Capacity, we divide the many names of 5G

As for the next steps, in March T-Mobile said it planned to cover over 250 million people with 5G middleware by the end of 2022, with a goal of reaching 90% of Americans by the end of 2023.

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