T-Mobile's first low-band 5G phones go on preorder ahead of Friday launch

T-Mobile's newest 5G network is just about ready for action.

Eli Blumenthal Senior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
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Eli Blumenthal
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T-Mobile's low-band 5G network is just about ready for launch. 

Joshua Goldman/CNET

T-Mobile looks to be "all systems go" ahead of its launch of a low-band 5G network this Friday. On Monday the carrier announced that it has turned on the network and has begun accepting preorders for its first two low-band 5G phones ahead of the public launch later this week. 

Both previously announced, the first two phones will be the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G and OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren. Samsung's phone will cost $1,300, in line with what the 5G Note costs at Verizon and AT&T , while OnePlus ' phone will cost $900, slightly more expensive than the $840 Sprint charges for the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G.

The two devices will be fully capable of tapping into T-Mobile's new 5G network, which will cover 200 million people across the country on Friday. Using what is known as low-band spectrum, T-Mobile's network won't be as fast as the higher frequency millimeter-wave 5G that Verizon has been rolling out in cities throughout the year. Unlike Verizon's 5G, however, the new T-Mobile 5G network will work indoors and cover large areas as opposed to just certain streets.

What 5G can do for you besides fast phone downloads

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T-Mobile has its own millimeter-wave 5G network that is already live in a handful of cities but these two devices won't work with that network. Neither will the carrier's first 5G phone, the Galaxy S10 5G, work with this new network. 

The S10 5G, Note 10 Plus 5G and OnePlus 7T Pro 5G will all, however, work with Sprint's existing midband 5G network should T-Mobile be successful in getting the pending merger approved. Devices that work across all three 5G flavors are expected to arrive in 2020.  

In addition to turning on low-band 5G for its T-Mobile branded network, the carrier says it will expand 5G to its Metro prepaid brand on Dec. 6 and launch the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G there as well. 

Read more: How to tell real 5G from the marketing fluff

AT&T will also be turning on a low-band 5G network this month, but it will start in a few cities covering "tens of millions" of people before expanding in 2020. 

Whereas AT&T's initial low-band 5G network isn't expected to yield many speed improvements, T-Mobile's low-band 5G should see download speeds increase by an average of 20% nationwide, according to Karri Kuoppamaki, T-Mobile's vice president of radio network technology and strategy.

Watch this: T-Mobile's 5G is here, but don't expect a huge speed boost

T-Mobile president of technology Neville Ray told CNET in October that the company expects peak download speeds on the low-band network to be around "200 to 300Mbps."

The carrier is putting out online maps for customers to see if 5G is available where they live. And unlike Verizon and AT&T you do not need to be a new data plan to use T-Mobile's 5G network, with the carrier promising that the new network will work with its current plans so long as you have a compatible device.