Twin Falls to get next generation 5G wireless cell service

Sharon Fisher//April 9, 2020

Twin Falls to get next generation 5G wireless cell service

Sharon Fisher//April 9, 2020

map of twin falls 5g coverage
The Magic Valley will now gain access to a higher-speed network for smartphones. Map courtesy of T-Mobile (click to enlarge)

TWIN FALLS – T-Mobile will start providing the next generation of wireless telephone technology here.

“The Twin Falls announcement shows that we’re continuing to build 5G and add markets across the U.S., and we’re excited to bring 5G, and all of its near- and long-term benefits, to Twin Falls’ area wireless consumers, giving them another option for wireless connectivity, accessibility and affordability,” said Joel Rushing, senior communications manager, in an email message.

In December, when the company first announced that it would provide 5G service to Idaho, Twin Falls was on the list of some 80 Idaho cities that were scheduled to get the service.

Different wavelength

Verizon began offering a 5G service, which it dubbed 5G+, in some parts of Boise and Meridian last year that offered much higher speed — up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) — partially because transmitters for the wireless signal could be located as closely packed as one per block.

The service T-Mobile uses runs on a different wavelength. While it’s not as fast as Verizon’s offering, it doesn’t require as densely packed transmitters, making it more suitable for rural areas such as most of the rest of Idaho.

The difference between 5G and 5G+ is the underlying wavelength. Verizon’s 5G+ uses gigahertz (GHz) waves. T-Mobile’s 5G uses 600 megahertz (MHz) waves, a spectrum the company paid $8 billion to acquire in 2017 that was previously used by television stations for broadcast.

Gigahertz waves hold more data, but they’re more likely to be stopped by buildings and even leaves.

600 MHz could provide transmission speeds of up to 30 to 50 megabits per second (Mbps), which could improve over time.

Different phones

Taking advantage of the new service also requires that users have a T-Mobile 5G-enabled smartphone.

T-Mobile offers five 5G-capable smartphones: the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren, the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G, the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G, the Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G. Those smartphones will continue to work on the legacy 4G LTE network, which T-Mobile expects to continue to expand and improve, Rushing said. The 5G-enabled smartphones automatically default to the 4G protocol whenever 5G isn’t available.

“In some places, 600 MHz 5G will be a lot faster than LTE,” Rushing said. “In others, customers won’t see as much difference. On average, customers with a 600 MHz 5G phone should see a 20% download speed boost on top of what T-Mobile’s advanced LTE network delivers, and they can expect that to get exponentially faster over time, just like we saw when 4G was first introduced.”

So, why Twin Falls?

“We’re focused on deploying our 5G network where we have clear spectrum, specifically 600 MHz, and the Magic Valley is one of those areas,” Rushing said, noting that the majority of the Magic Valley would have access to the service. “In some locations, other organizations — like TV or radio broadcasters — are still working to move their traffic off of our 5G spectrum (600MHz), and as soon as those airwaves are clear, we’ll be adding 5G.”

The company also announced on April 1 the completion of its merger with Sprint, making the combined companies better able to compete with market leaders Verizon and A&T, as well as a CEO transition from John Legere to Mike Sievert. Rushing did not have any information about what specific effects the merger would have on Idaho.

However, because Sprint offers “mid-band” and “high-band” 5G — as opposed to the “low-band” 5G T-Mobile offers — the merged companies should be able to offer improved 5G service in the future, the company said in a statement.

“In the coming months and years, New T-Mobile will build upon this foundational 5G layer with mid-band and high-band spectrum that will add capacity, or more ‘lanes,’ using the invisible highway analogy, for greater speeds and better coverage.”