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T-Mobile's 2021 5G goals: improved speeds, upgraded voice

T-Mobile's top networking executive said the operator has some high-tech goals for next year, including adding carrier aggregation and voice-over-5G functions to its network.

"That would be part of our ambition," T-Mobile's president of technology, Neville Ray, said Tuesday at an investor conference. "We're working really hard with our vendors."

The addition of the two technologies would represent another feather in Ray's cap following his moves to launch standalone 5G this summer. The operator was one of the first in the world to deploy the technology.

T-Mobile's Ray said that he's already making significant progress in the operator's five-year, $60 billion network upgrade program, having launched 5G on T-Mobile's lowband 600MHz spectrum across most of the nation. Ray said T-Mobile is seeing average speeds on that network reaching up to 100 Mbit/s, roughly double the speeds available on T-Mobile's 4G LTE network.

But he said the operator's deployment of 5G in Sprint's 2.5GHz spectrum will result in dramatic improvements to the operator's offerings. He said the company expects to reach 100 million people with 5G in 2.5GHz spectrum by the end of this year, with average speeds of around 300 Mbit/s.

And, Ray explained, the addition of carrier aggregation technology next year to T-Mobile's network ought to boost those speeds even further. Carrier aggregation technology is common throughout global 4G LTE networks, though it has not been applied widely to 5G networks. The technology essentially glues together transmissions in different spectrum bands, thereby boosting users' overall speeds.

However, Ray said the deployment of carrier aggregation technology on T-Mobile's network in 2021 will be contingent on the phones T-Mobile obtains from its suppliers. Ray said that some T-Mobile phones could support carrier aggregation as early as the first quarter of 2021, but that the rollout of the technology across all of T-Mobile's phones "is going to be a little staggered."

Finally, Ray also said T-Mobile is working to quickly move its customers' voice traffic onto its 5G network. Dubbed "VoNR" (and pronounced "voner") for "Voice over 5G New Radio," the technology would represent an upgrade to the Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology that T-Mobile has deployed on its 4G network.

The goal of VoNR would be to push all of T-Mobile's traffic onto its most advanced network. Ray explained that T-Mobile hopes to deploy VoNR next year if possible, though the effort would depend on support from the operator's vendors.

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

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