T-Mobile promises faster speeds, lower latency with standalone 5G launch

T-Mobile said it switched on standalone 5G technology with vendors Cisco and Nokia across its nationwide 5G network, and company officials touted a wide range of current and future benefits of the technology.

As noted by the company's release and executives' comments, T-Mobile said standalone 5G:

  • Has supported latency improvements up to 40% in during testing.
  • Will immediately increase its 5G footprint by 30%, or roughly 1.3 million square miles, as well as its indoor coverage. That's because standalone 5G will allow T-Mobile to transmit signals only in its 600MHz spectrum without an "anchor" transmission in its LTE spectrum, which in some cases doesn't reach as far. Unlike the non-standalone version of 5G that is currently used by virtually all of the world's 5G providers, standalone 5G does not require an anchoring 4G LTE signal.
  • Can work on some of T-Mobile's existing phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S20 and the OnePlus 8 5G, with a software upgrade.
  • Can speed up user upload speeds, given that some non-standalone 5G connections used 4G for uploading.
  • Could increase user downloads by 20-30%, due to the higher spectral efficiency of 5G compared with 4G.
  • Likely will improve 5G phones' battery life, considering standalone 5G connections do not require phones to simultaneously use their LTE and 5G radios like non-standalone connections do.
  • Can eventually support services like self-driving vehicles and real-time translation offerings via network slicing.

T-Mobile sought to drum up interest in a highly technical networking announcement with a drone light show in Lisbon, North Dakota. The event highlighted T-Mobile's 5G coverage in rural areas, as well as the capabilities of its 5G offering.

The operator's launch of standalone 5G is noteworthy considering the 3GPP – the global technology standards association charged with developing 5G – released the final specifications for standalone 5G just last month.

T-Mobile of course isn't alone in moving from the non-standalone version of 5G to the standalone version. For example, Verizon said it will begin moving its 5G traffic to a standalone core later this year, while other operators across the world are making similar moves.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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