The global 5G rollout is well underway. Despite delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, most carriers are starting to get their upgrades back on track. In the United States, it has become clear that T-Mobile is leading the charge.
It recently announced that it has switched on “the world’s first standalone 5G network.”
This move allows the carrier to maximize its use of the 600MHz 5G spectrum while also increasing its 5G footprint by 30 percent. Meanwhile, T-Mobile’s 5G signal now penetrates deeper into buildings. That upgrade, along with its widespread availability, will help make 5G much more attractive to everyday consumers.
The Un-Carrier Leads the Way
After spending many years as a second-rate carrier behind the likes of Verizon, T-Mobile is making a push to be seen as the best. It has made some major strides in the past few years, including Tuesday’s activation of its standalone 5G network and its merger with Sprint earlier this summer.
In a press release, the carrier says, “With today’s launch, 600MHz 5G can go beyond the mid-band signal, covering hundreds of square miles from a single tower and going deeper into buildings than before.”
So, how can T-Mobile flip a switch and magically increase its coverage?
With non-standalone network architecture, the 600MHz 5G band is combined with mid-band LTE. While this creates some speed improvements, the 5G signal can only go as far as the mid-band LTE can carry it. To put it in perspective, a mid-band tower can cover a several-mile radius. A low-band (600MHz) tower can cover hundreds of square miles.
T-Mobile claims that the standalone launch brings 5G “to nearly 2,000 additional cities and towns.”
One of them is Lisbon, North Dakota. T-Mobile plans to host a light-filled drone show in the town to celebrate the arrival of 5G.
Room to Grow
If a 30 percent increase in coverage sounds impressive, that’s because it is. However, T-Mobile says that there is still plenty of room for improvement in the future.
It claims that standalone 5G “will lead to an environment where transformative applications are made possible—things like connected self-driving vehicles, supercharged IoT, real-time translation… and things we haven’t even dreamed of yet.”
Indeed, the 5G revolution will help usher in many astounding new technologies in the years ahead.
That being said, consumer smartphones are some of the first devices to benefit from the technology. Many existing 5G phones will work with T-Mobile’s standalone network. The carrier says, “OnePlus, Qualcomm Technologies and Samsung have helped the Un-carrier ensure existing devices can access SA [standalone] 5G with a software update, based on compatibility.”
Meanwhile, other U.S. carriers have their own plans for standalone 5G networks. They’re operating on non-standalone networks in the meantime.
Right now, though, T-Mobile holds a demanding lead in the 5G race. It now covers 1.3 million square miles and its network is available in more than 7,500 cities and towns.
T-Mobile’s president of technology, Neville Ray, says, “This is where it gets interesting, opening the door for massive innovation in this country—and while the other guys continue to play catch up, we’ll keep growing the world’s most advanced 5G network.”