T-Mobile’s next magenta-heavy, super-visible campaign won’t be encouraging customers to switch to the company’s cellphone service.
Instead, the Bellevue, Wash.-based carrier plans to take a decked-out semitrailer truck around the country to showcase its ideas for 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity, and how it envisions people and businesses making use of it.
The truck is an extension of the company’s Tech Experience lab in Bellevue. There, an employee bounces a soccer ball (guess what color) in front of a line of cellphones. Half the phones are set up on the 4G LTE network, the current standard for phones, and the other half are simulating the upcoming 5G technology. Mirrored in the line of phones, the image of the ball follows reality a fraction of a second later on the 5G phones. The LTE phones quickly catch up, but it’s noticeably later.
“5G has more speed, more capacity,” said Karri Kuoppamaki, the company’s vice president overseeing 5G strategy.
Another demo shows normal labels on wine bottles transforming into talking T-Mobile executives when an app is scanned over them. On a balcony adjacent to the lab, an LTE-connected drone soars into the air, a small demonstration of a larger test that the company is conducting with FAA approval in Reno.
Most of the flashy demos inside the Tech Experience lab don’t exist in the marketplace yet, and won’t until next year at the earliest. T-Mobile, like its two larger competitors, is building out infrastructure and testing 5G connections in select cities so some capabilities will be ready when phones equipped to handle the next generation of wireless service are released next year.
T-Mobile plans to make 5G available in a limited capacity in about 30 cities next year using spectrum that it won in a federal auction last year. It has pledged to bring the technology nationwide in 2020.
“Consumers will first begin to experience 5G when devices become available in 2019, but again, just like LTE, it will evolve and change over time,” said T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray. “Some of the visionary 5G experiences we showcase in the Tech Experience and on the truck are likely next decade.”