T-mobile vs. Verizon: The battle over 5G dominance

Verizon | February 04, 2020

T-mobile vs. Verizon: The battle over 5G dominance
  • The squabble between Verizon and T-Mobile is the spectrum they're using for 5G.

  • T-Mobile remains confident of the $26.5 billion mega deal with Sprint.

  • Verizon's ad marks the first time it has specifically gone after rival T-Mobile’s 5G network.


The Super Bowl 2020 surely came with a bang as Verizon and T-Mobile took their opportunity to go all out and take a swipe at each other's 5G networks. Not only did the two spend millions of dollars in their marketing campaigns but it all essentially came down to a series of snide comments and throwing 5G-related shades at one another. Meanwhile, Sprint and AT&T decided to sit this one out.
 

T-Mo returned to the Big Game with a 60-second spot starring "Black-ish's" Anthony Anderson and his actual mother, Doris Hancox, and held nothing back in pitting its nationwide 5G network against Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Verizon made its move less than 24 hours after T-Mobile’s 5G-focused ad by putting out a video on Saturday stating how its 4G network is more than twice as fast as T-Mobile's 5G network.
 

Evidently, this ad marks the first time it has specifically gone after rival T-Mobile’s 5G network since the “un-carrier” became the first company to offer nationwide 5G coverage. It’s also perhaps the first shot in the so-called “battle for 5G dominance,” where carriers T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T are poised to spend billions in advertising convincing consumers that their 5G network is best.
 

At the heart of the squabble between Verizon and T-Mobile is the spectrum they're using for 5G. Verizon bought billions of dollars of millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum from the likes of XO and Straight Path, and is now in the process of using that highband spectrum to build a 5G network in parts of some downtown areas around the US. T-Mobile, on the other hand spent almost $8 billion on 600MHz spectrum during the FCC's 2017 incentive auction, and is now in the process of using that lowband spectrum to build a nationwide 5G network.
 

Due to physics of signal propagation in these kinds of spectrum bands, Verizon's 5G can't cover much territory but it can carry lots of data, while T-Mobile's 5G can cover large geographic areas but isn't much faster than 4G.
 

T-Mobile’s Big Game commercial has Anthony Anderson switch his mother's cell phone plan from Verizon to T-Mobile because “it’s the only one to offer nationwide 5G.” Whereas Verizon has actor and comedian, Jenny Slate walk around New York City claiming that Verizon’s 4G is actually better than its rival’s 5G.
 

Verizon also opted to highlight what 5G will “never do” in its Super Bowl ad, in a bid to make a point about the important and often lifesaving work that first responders do every day.
 

Narrated by Harrison Ford, the 60-second spot starts off by showcasing a few of 5G’s capabilities, like the fact that it can help firefighters see through smoke via innovative technology and provide rescuers with new tools to locate survivors.
 

“At a moment when consumers are wary, wondering who they can trust, we wanted to focus on the notion of reliability with our Super Bowl campaign,” said Diego Scotti, Chief Marketing Officer at Verizon, in a statement. “First responders rely on us to provide technology that helps them do their jobs, and we rely on their bravery and commitment every day.”
 

Andrew McKechnie, Chief Creative Officer at Verizon, says the company didn't hold the video until Saturday in anticipation of T-Mobile releasing its Super Bowl spot early. Instead, he said Verizon is "educating" the public about what 5G can achieve, a message it intends to share in its Super Bowl ad on Sunday.
 

T-Mobile’s CEO, John Legere in a recent blog post mocks the company’s efforts and in part blasts Verizon's 5G for its "sad, spotty coverage in random parts of some areas of some cities." Legere went so far as to put out a press release that included a link to a video showing how an umbrella could block out Verizon’s 5G signal.
 

Learn more: T-Mobile CEO John Legere slams Verizon’s new 5G offering: ‘Will never scale … but it is first, right’
 

 

 

“Verizon’s spending big bucks to tell people T-Mobile’s 5G network – the first and only nationwide 5G network – is the one to beat. That is INCREDIBLE! Should I write someone in their marketing team a check?”

- John Legere, CEO, T-Mobile


Verizon did point out that its 4G network in some cases is faster than T-Mobile's 5G network. And it's worth noting that Verizon plans to eventually expand its own 5G nationwide using its own lowband spectrum holdings -- just like T-Mobile.
 

Despite its best efforts, one of the biggest 5G challenges facing both Verizon and AT&T is the type of frequencies they each have available to deploy coverage. Both can deliver ridiculous speeds, but their coverage is spotty.
 

Ronan Dunne, the Executive Vice President and CEO of Verizon's Consumer division, reiterated his company's position that "real 5G" needs to be a "fundamental game changer", providing substantial differentiation in terms of speed and capacity from what 4G LTE currently offers. While certain unnamed competitors are "scrambling" to use inferior 5G technology to make up for the fact that they either don't have satisfactory coverage or capacity in their 4G LTE networks, according to Dunne, Verizon purportedly "serves the entire country" with 4G LTE speeds that in "most cases are higher than the available DSL offering for customers."
 


 

" There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace. We’re constantly educating consumers on not only what 5G will do, but that not everything being called 5G has actual 5G performance."

- Andrew McKechnie, Chief Creative Officer, Verizon


Dunne pointed out that Verizon could very well do what "others have been doing in recent weeks", opting to focus on the massive upgrades mmWave technology can provide on a smaller scale rather than trying to modestly improve its already impressive LTE download speeds "nationwide." It remains to be seen whether or not this strategy will prove effective and successful in the long run, especially if T-Mobile and Sprint do manage to join forces and put their grand plan of combining low and mid-band 5G spectrum into action.
 

T-Mobile remains confident of the $26.5 billion mega deal with Sprint, allowing the "Un-carrier" to combine its own low-band spectrum with Sprint's wealth of mid-band technology.
 

Learn more: The first nationwide 5G wireless network | T-mobile
 

T-Mobile fully believes its 5G network will crush the competition's next-gen connectivity thanks to a coherent strategy focusing on both coverage and speed improvements for the near and distant future.
 

In terms of YouTube views, T-Mobile definitely wins the battle, according to a Variety tally of the top Super Bowl ads. However, from a spectrum standpoint, the two networks are pretty similar right now, relying on low band technology to penetrate walls and cover a lot of ground. So far, AT&T has only been able to cover the ground of 19 cities, while T-Mobile flipped its 5G switch nationwide last month, offering access to higher download speeds and lower latency for "more than 200 million people" coast to coast.

Spotlight

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