T-Mobile, the #2 carrier in the US by subscribers, held a “5G Forward” event to unveil some updates on its new 5G innovation lab in Bellevue, Washington. The company also announced new 5G partnerships. Other carriers, such as Verizon and AT&T, also have innovation labs. In the past, T-Mobile has been behind other major operators when it came to pushing new applications. The moves and investments announced at the event seek to correct this. Some of the key announcements:
- There are new 5G applications en route. More immediately, aggressive 5G rollouts are needed to simply keep up with data usage increases. 50% of T-Mobile’s data traffic is now over its 5G network. Since the 5G network launch, streaming and video data usage is up twofold, gaming is up fivefold and hotspot data usage is up threefold.
- T-Mobile has over 646,000 FWA (fixed wireless access) subscribers covering over 15 million homes.
- In the US, FWA net additions are higher than fiber broadband net additions. But the full potential of FWA is yet to be unleashed as all of the 5G mid-band spectrum has not been lit up. mmWave rollouts also continue. T-Mobile has many options – inner city, suburbs and rural areas – where FWA services would be welcome.
- T-Mobile announced its ‘T-Mobile DevEdge’ program. The goal is to lower the costs for application developers. By lowering costs and speeding time-to-market, T-Mobile will be able to offer more 5G services. Available to application developers today are:
- New, state-of-the-art innovation lab in Bellevue, Washington. App developers will be able to work side by side T-Mobile engineers.
- Pre-certified chipsets, modules and devices. This early access for testing will help reduce time-to-market.
- Streamlined IoT certifications. In the past, it had taken over a year to certify an IoT device. Developers can now work earlier with T-Mobile engineers and work within a roadmap of IoT certifications.
- Access to APIs. Developers can get direct access to T-Mobile’s network and developer kits at limited to zero costs. This will help applications take advantage of edge compute, network slicing, and IoT connections.
- T-Mobile is especially excited about smart factory, robotics, drones and AR/VR/Hologram developments. Some of the AR/VR applications T-Mobile hopes to incubate include education and training use cases (think ability to ‘virtually’ see a manual or complete engine block while repairing an item in the field).
- New partners announced:
- T-Mobile and Qualcomm have partnered to focus on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces XR development platform. This will help developers with positional tracking, image recognition and tracking, plane detection, spatial mapping and meshing, and scene understanding (floors, walls, ceilings and other physical space). Developers focusing on areas such as metaverse, cloud gaming, 8k streaming, edge cloud and crowded network optimization applications will find it useful. It is important to have Qualcomm involved early to assist application developers.
- Qualcomm is a key partner for “5G Forward” for many reasons. It has close partnerships with Meta and Microsoft, two major players in AR/VR/Metaverse. In addition, it has created a $100-million Metaverse fund for XR developers.
- Disney StudioLAB has partnered with T-Mobile stating it understands that there will be radical changes in how subscribers consume or watch media. It is a five-year partnership working on new, immersive experiences consumers could consume over T-Mobile’s 5G network, like ‘virtual presence’, mixed reality entertainment. The partnership does not just cover new experiences for consumers, it will also help Disney StudioLAB produce content. The media creator will be able to virtually scout remote movie locations or transfer video content in real time from remote locations over T-Mobile’s 5G network.
- Red Bull-T-Mobile collaboration is expanding. Red Bull will be using T-Mobile’s 5G network during outdoor sporting events where it will be using drones to broadcast events. Red Bull will also be tracking competitor heart rate, acceleration, and position on course to make events more consumer-friendly to watch at home.
- Venture funding increases: T-Mobile is investing in early and emerging growth companies. It has also made investments in two key companies. SignalWire, a software-defined telecom apps company, is the first company T-Mobile has invested in. It specializes in communication APIs. The second company is Spectro Cloud, a cloud infrastructure company. T-Mobile Ventures has participated in Spectro Cloud’s $40-million Series B funding round. This investment focuses on removing barriers in implementing cloud infrastructure.
T-Mobile has a window where it is leading US operators in 5G rollouts. It plans to exploit this lead by investing and rolling out new 5G applications as fast as possible. Strong move and it will be interesting to watch what AT&T, Verizon, US Cellular and DISH bring.