That cellular equipment you see above may not look like much, but don’t dismiss it too quickly — it could be crucial to the future of wireless data. T-Mobile has switched on the world’s first 600MHz LTE sites in Cheynne, Wyoming, promising less congested networks (and thus higher real-world speeds) and better coverage, especially indoors and in those rural areas where range is vital. It’s a modest start, but the carrier promises more 600MHz sites in 10 additional states before the year is over. The tricky part is getting a device that can take advantage of it… you’ll have to wait a while for that.
The network notes that both LG and Samsung expect to ship 600MHz-ready phones sometime in the fourth quarter of 2017. While there’s no mention of which phones are in line, the timing suggests that the Galaxy Note 8 and V30 may be first in line. Whatever shows up, this could still leave you waiting a while before you can find out whether or not 600MHz is as helpful as T-Mobile makes it out to be. That’s especially true if you live elsewhere in the world, where 600MHz wireless is a long-term dream at best.
It’s potentially a coup for T-Mobile. While the 700MHz LTE you see across big carriers today isn’t exactly crude, it doesn’t perform quite as well as the 600MHz band. And T-Mobile’s huge number of 600MHz licenses gives it plenty of headroom, whether it’s for additional customers or future 5G rollouts. This isn’t to say that rivals like AT&T or Verizon are necessarily in trouble. It’s just that T-Mobile might have an ace up its sleeve.