T-Mobile Launches Nationwide Free 5G Access for First Responders

T-Mobile Connecting Heroes Credit: T-Mobile
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After finally completing its massive merger with Sprint last month — a deal that was years in the making — T-Mobile is now coming through on its promise to offer free nationwide 5G service to First Responder Agencies as part of its “5G for Good” initiative.

T-Mobile first announced this project last fall as it prepared to debut its nationwide 5G network, and while some cynically suggested that it was simply a move on the part of T-Mobile executives to placate the U.S. states that were oppositing the Sprint merger — especially since it was conditional on the merger successfully closing — it doesn’t change the fact that the “Uncarrier” now stands to save government emergency services agencies billions of dollars by offering free connectivity.

Announced this morning on Twitter by T-Mobile’s newly-minted CEO, Mike Sievert, T-Mobile will provide completely free, unlimited service — including 5G service — to state and local fire, police, and EMS agencies’ for their first responders. This includes everything from law enforcement agencies and paramedics in major cities to local county sherrifs and even private police and tribal first responder services. Notably, federal government agencies are not included.

T-Mobile notes that it’s pledging over $7.7 billion over the next 10 years to bring wireless connectivity to these agencies, in the hopes that the money that they save can be put toward better pay for their first responders and more investment in important live-saving equipment.

Many agencies are forced to make tradeoffs between life-saving equipment and important communication services that they depend on to do their jobs, and that’s just not right. That’s an example of a choice that they shouldn’t ever have to make—and certainly not now in the midst of a global pandemic.

Mike Sievert, T-Mobile CEO

What’s notable here as well is that T-Mobile is making a ten-year commitment to providing 5G service for free, meaning that agencies can be guaranteed to have free cellular access for at least that time period, allowing them to comfortably budget money that would be otherwise spent on communication services and put it to much better uses.

T-Mobile is also promising that first responders will be given the highest priority on the T-Mobile network, guaranteeing that their calls will always go through and they will be able to get online during emergencies and natural disasters, “no matter how much data they need.”

The Plan

To be clear, this is a business plan for first responder agencies to use for devices issued to their staff and volunteers; it’s not something that will be available to first responders to use for their personal phones, although T-Mobile does offer a significantly cheaper Magenta plan exclusively to first responders for as little as $25/month for unlimited talk, text, and data in the U.S.

For qualifying agencies and their staff, however — and T-Mobile is being pretty generous about what agencies will qualify, with even volunteer and non-profit organizations included — they can be guaranteed to get full T-Mobile service, including 5G support on compatible devices, for at least the next ten years.

The plans include unlimited smartphone data plus 1GB of 4G LTE mobile hotspot, which gets throttled to 3G speeds after the 1GB is exceeded, although customers who need more mobile hotspot data can upgrade to a 20GB cap for $15/month, which includes a few other benefits as well.

There does appear to be one caveat, however, which is that video streaming will be capped at DVD 480p quality, although this is part of T-Mobile’s normal video optimization features, so it won’t affect overall data speeds for other purposes, and since these plans are for professional use by first responders, it’s not likely to be a serious limitation.

Individuals and agencies who are interesting in learning more about the program can visit T-Mobile’s Connecting Heroes site to read more or sign up.

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