Eastern Idaho’s first 5G service has arrived.
The T-Mobile 5G network went live Dec. 6, bringing 5G to more than 80 Idaho communities. While it won’t be quite as fast as the 5G+ that came to the Boise area earlier this year, it will still be an improvement for rural Idahoans.
In eastern Idaho, T-Mobile 5G will be low-band 5G, meaning it won’t have the lightning speeds promised by other carriers in select cities, but it will be more reliable and have a farther reach.
AT&T plans to offer nationwide 5G in the first half of 2020, according to its website. Verizon is offering 5G in the Treasure Valley but has not expanded that service to eastern Idaho.
“It will be important for rural areas because it will have a longer reach and will give them better connectivity. There’s still a lot of dead spots around Idaho Falls. You don’t have to go very far to find them,” said Don Casper, professor of computer networking at the College of Eastern Idaho. “I think it will overcome that a lot.”
One drawback, however, is that current cellphone models cannot use 5G. People looking to get 5G will need to purchase a new phone. Once a phone is purchased, T-Mobile’s 5G service will not cost more than 4G.
T-Mobile will be selling two cellphones for its 5G network, a OnePlus for $900 and a Samsung Note 10 for $1,300, though pricing and payment plans are available. Local T-Mobile dealers have not received the 5G cellphones yet, due to high demand across the country. However, a representative at an Idaho Falls’ T-Mobile 5G store said he is expecting them to arrive soon.
5G modems have the potential to have an even greater impact on local communities without broadband service. 5G modems will be able to be used like broadband connections, potentially replacing slow DSL connections, which may be important for local businesses and home offices that need fast internet speeds in order to work.
T-Mobile’s new 5G service now reaches 5,000 cities and towns nationwide. Eastern Idaho locations include: Aberdeen, American Falls, Arbon Valley, Arco, Arimo, Bellevue, Blackfoot, Buhl, Carey, Chubbuck, Downey, Fort Hall, Georgetown, Hazelton, Irwin, Island Park, Kimberly, Mackay, McCammon, Montpelier, Pocatello, Preston, Rexburg, Rockland, Rupert, Shelley, Soda Springs, St. Anthony, Twin Falls, Tyhee and Wendell.
Earlier this year, the Idaho National Laboratory launched an institute to study the security of 5G networks.
“5G has the potential to drastically change how information is exchanged for communication and control using wireless networks,” Arupjyoti Bhuyan, the INL Wireless Security Institute’s technical director, said in a statement. “It will make autonomous vehicles a reality, it will enable a fleet of drones to communicate during public safety, and it will improve the speed of information exchange by at least 10 times. Before 5G is deployed nationwide, the technology must be trusted, and security is a critical component of trust.”