We just crowned T-Mobile the Best Mobile Network in the US, and it seems determined to keep that spot. On a trip to Upstate New York, we found the carrier’s next 5G step is live for anyone to use: a massive 100MHz of standalone 5G, unencumbered by legacy 4G systems.
Why does this matter? To this day, most 5G systems are still tethered to 4G, which is part of why you haven’t seen buzzy features like ultra-low latency and guaranteed quality of service through network slicing yet. Prying 5G off the 4G system gets us closer to 5G actually enabling new applications as opposed to just being 4G with a speed bump.
In other words, if you’re going to be wandering around outside with your future Apple AR glasses talking to a hologram of someone, you’re going to need standalone 5G to get the responsiveness and quality of service to make that work.
We saw standalone n41 on several sites across central Syracuse, from the university campus to nearby downtown blocks. On the map below, the light blue color is the standalone 5G; the rest are mixes of 5G and 4G.
T-Mobile has had standalone 5G for quite some time now, but in general it’s been based on its longer-range but lower-capacity n71 system. It has also experimented with standalone n41 in the past. Bringing fast standalone n41 into the fold means T-Mobile can have flexibility, capacity, and speed all together. T-Mobile can also combine n41 with n71 for 110MHz of pure 5G, or even n41 and n41 for 200MHz and massive speeds.
For now, the performance I saw on standalone n41 in Syracuse was similar to what you get from T-Mobile’s “5G UC” elsewhere: I got 310-382Mbps down, 52Mbps up, and 27-34ms latency. But there’s potential.
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T-Mobile confirmed that I stumbled upon a live engineering test site in Syracuse, and that the carrier is also testing standalone band n25 (1900Mhz) as well as combining n25 and n41 using carrier aggregation.
This follows up a bunch of other 5G advances T-Mobile has pursued recently. In January, we saw the company pair two 5G channels, in early June the carrier introduced 5G voice calling(Opens in a new window) in two cities, and in mid-June it said it’s now able to merge three 5G channels.
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