T-Mobile Wins Race to First Standalone 5G Network

T-Mobile has claimed the most sought-after title in the wireless game: the first carrier to deploy a standalone 5G network. To those who aren’t familiar with 5G technology, this could be a headline that is easily overlooked but it’s quite the accomplishment. 

T-Mobile announced on August 2, 2020, via a drone show in Lisbon, North Dakota to let people know that its standalone (SA) 5G is available nationwide. The recent deployment expands T-Mobile’s 5G footprint to 1.3 million square miles, about a 30% expansion compared to the NSA network by itself. T-Mobile’s 5G network is now available in more than 7,500 cities across the US using its 600 MHz spectrum. 

Karri Kuoppamaki, vice president of Technology Development and Strategy at T-Mobile said, “Standalone 5G really is the future of wireless connectivity.” Kuoppamaki noted that a 5G SA network is significant because it takes 5G to the next level and enables things like autonomous cars, super-charged IoT, and real-time translation. 

Currently, both Verizon and AT&T offer 5G by using a non-standalone (NSA) version of the 3GPPP specification with plans to move to a SA version. Most carriers opted to start their 5G networks with a NSA version because it relies on LTE as an anchor whereas the SA does not need LTE to work. DISH Network, the nation’s fourth wireless carrier, is setting up its 5G network as a complete SA with no LTE. 

Roger Entner, the founder of Recon Analytics, said, “They’re the first in the world and they will have tangible 5G coverage advantages.” In regards to a consumer perspective, Entner said, “Their 5G will reach a lot more places and into a lot more buildings. The most apparent thing is they will have a 5G signal in more places because they are no longer relying on the 4G core for signaling.”

One of the biggest advantages a SA 5G network has to offer is a lower latency, which also enables more network slicing.

Most people when they look at the latency of 5G, they usually associate it with a speed that’s less than 1 millisecond. But according to Kuoppamaki, latency is not a fixed number. When looking at latency, it’s important to consider transport, core network, and internet latency all need to be factored in when looking at overall latency speed. 

“It’s not like it’s going to be X or Y. There’s going to be a range. It depends on where you are,” and the things going on around you. “It is a significant improvement to where we are today,” when the latency ranges may be in the 20-30 millisecond range, so “this is going to bring it down significantly from there.”

Kuoppamaki said that T-Mobile engineers have already seen a 40% improvement in latency during SA testing and that it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what can be done with SA 5G. The SA architecture is the perfect foundation for network slicing and edge computing and can accommodate all different deployments. 

Why T-Mobile chose Lisbon of all places in the US, Kuoppamaki said, “It really boils down to us firmly believing and standing behind 5G for all… We’ve worked very hard to bring the best 5G experience to our customers everywhere and SA gives us the ability to significantly expand our 5G footprint in those areas.”

Like any 5G network, you’ll need a 5G device to access it. Current T-Mobile customers will need a software upgrade on eligible devices to use the new SA version. Devices with the ability to use T-Mobile’s SA network are the OnePlus 8 and Samsung Galaxy S20 series with plans to roll upgrades to other 5G devices. As of right now, there’s no update as to when the first Apple SA based iPhone will be available. 

In a press release, T-Mobile called the days of when T-Mobile was the carrier with the worst coverage, the “un-carrier” pointed out that those days are long gone and times have changed. T-Mobile boasted that their 5G network is two times bigger than AT&T’s and 10,000 times bigger than Verizon. The carrier noted, “It’s a new era in wireless, and T-Mobile holds the 5G coverage crown.” 

Even more good news, with a SA 5G network, developers now can build use cases for 5G that didn’t previously exist because according to Kuoppamaki, if there’s no network to test on there’s no point. Now with T-Mobile’s latest SA deployment, the carrier can host companies and startups all working on the next big thing. 

T-Mobile is working with several top-vendors on its path to 5G domination, the list includes Cisco, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, OnePlus, and Qualcomm. 

Source: Fierce Wireless