5G on T-Mobile: Everything you need to know

T-Mobile has one of the most ambitious 5G plans of any carrier out there. T-Mobile is banking on a merger with Sprint to complete its full 5G network but hasn’t shied away from getting a head start. With new high-band 5G spots in six cities across the U.S. as well as an incoming 600Mhz network, it’s time to start thinking about whether you should consider T-Mobile’s 5G network. Here’s everything you need to know about this network so you can make that decision with confidence.

When will my area even get 5G?

T-Mobile will be launching its low-band 5G network starting on December 9, 2019. Low-band 5G will be built alongside T-Mobile’s band 71 LTE network using the same equipment. This upgrade will benefit 4G LTE customers as well as future 5G customers. At 600Mhz, this is the lowest frequency we’ve seen in 5G and coverage will be much better than we’ve seen from any 5G deployment so far including Sprint.

T-Mobile says they will cover 200 million people, or 5,000 cities, with 5G by the end of the year. That’s pretty cool.

While it remains to be seen just how fast this low-band network will be, the extra coverage available at this frequency will allow T-Mobile to cover many more people with fewer towers. It’s worth keeping in mind that you’ll need one of two, yet to be released phones to use this network. The Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G and the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren.

T-Mobile is still building a high-band, or millimeter wave, 5G network in a few cities. This deployment of 5G is on bands N260 and N261 at 39Ghz and 28Ghz respectively. The network is off to a strong start with a list of six cities and surprisingly detailed maps. With some coverage in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Cleveland, and Atlanta, the number of cities is high compared to other carriers but the actual 5G coverage is still quite low. Some highlighted areas with consistent coverage only encompass a few neighborhoods and many only have it a street intersection.

This deployment is reassuringly honest but it does exemplify the difficulty of deploying high-band 5G in a city.

Most of us will need to wait for low-band to be deployed to see 5G daily. There’s also the consideration that Sprint is deploying its 5G network on the mid-band at 2.5Ghz. With potential offerings at high-band, mid-band, and low-band, T-Mobile really seems set to be the king of 5G very soon.

Which devices should I get to be 5G ready?

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is the only 5G device currently available on T-Mobile. The Galaxy S10 5G is a larger version of the S10+ with a larger battery and display alongside a 5G modem that supports T-Mobile’s high-band 5G network. While you will get access to the fastest of 5G, you will have to fall back to 4G LTE most of the time.

Unless you have to buy a phone right now, it would be best to wait for the second wave of 5G devices from T-Mobile starting with the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren and the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G. These devices feature the most modern 5G modems and will be able to utilize the entire T-Mobile network for the best possible connection.

Which plan do I need for access?

T-Mobile is allowing anyone with a compatible device to access its 5G network. It’s important to note that using 5G will likely lead to increased data usage so a plan with plenty of data is recommended. Still, T-Mobile continues to stand out from the crowd in a great way with this 5G approach. And really, it doesn’t make sense from a technical perspective to charge more for 5G access.

What tech is T-Mobile using?

T-Mobile started with high-band 5G on 28Ghz and 32Ghz bands. With this network, T-Mobile should be competitive with what Verizon and AT&T have been doing once the network has more time to mature. This high-band deployment should be capable of very high speeds but building penetration and coverage is much more limited than we’re used to with 4G.

According to an Un-Carrier event held on November 7, 2019, T-Mobile will launch its low-band 5G network on December 6, 2019 covering 200 million people right off the bat.

This will make it the first nationwide 5G network if T-Mobile can pull it off. This deployment should sound familiar to 5G enthusiasts since U.S. Cellular announced similar plans this October.

What’s the deal with Sprint and does it matter?

There’s another piece of the 5G puzzle that still needs to be placed, and it’s yellow. Sprint invested big in sub-6, or mid-band, spectrum early on and has partially used it to drive high LTE speeds thanks to carrier aggregation. Recently, Sprint has been making use of this spectrum to build a 5G network. While speeds aren’t as high as high-band 5G networks, it has much better coverage and building penetration.

When and if Sprint and T-Mobile are able to join forces (and it’s looking likely), both networks will be able to make free use of this combined 5G network, giving customers access to one of the most technically advanced and widest-reaching networks nationwide. Described as a layer cake, the combined Sprint and T-Mobile network would cover all bases with low-band 600Mhz, mid-band 2.5GHz, and high-band 28Ghz and 39Ghz spectrum.

Is 5G worth it for most people?

On T-Mobile, it really comes down to if you want the phone because there is no current separation of plans. The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is quite a good phone with everything you would expect from a modern flagship device. If you just want the advanced speed and improved connection consistency of 5G, the Galaxy S10 5G is a strong phone and T-Mobile has even demonstrated speeds over 1Gbps on it. We’ve seen similar results on the same phone on another network as well.

However, it’s also the only current choice on T-Mobile and won’t be as functional as the second wave of 5G devices thanks to its older X50 modem. If this large and expensive device isn’t to your taste then you should hold off until a device with a better fit becomes available. 4G LTE will be more than enough for the needs of most users at this time.

It’s OK not to be hyped about 5G

What is 5G for good?

5G for Good is an initiative to use the power of 5G to help the community. While some people have accused T-Mobile of putting on a show to grease the government’s wheels in approving its merger with Sprint, it’s nice to see technology making a positive impact on the world.

It’s worth noting that all of the projections here depend on the merger going through and T-Mobile likely won’t be able to get it done without the extra spectrum from Sprint.

Connecting Heros Initiative

The Connecting Heroes Initiative is a program that intends to bring free 5G access to first responders in America. This includes both public and non-profit law enforcement, fire, and EMS agencies. It’s first-come, first-serve for those that sign up so if you want your agency to get connected on 5G, get registered as soon as possible.

Project 10Million

It’s been shown that children without access to the internet likely won’t receive as good an education as those that do. Of course, this is also linked to income inequality.

Project 10Millions aims to get rid of the homework gap that is caused by millions of children not having access to the internet for school work. The project intends to offer free service, hotspots, and reduced-cost devices to 10 million households over the next five years.

T-Mobile Connect

T-Mobile connect is simply a low-priced phone plan with access to the 5G network. Plans are offered at $15 per month for unlimited talk and text with 2GB of high-speed data. There is also a $25 per month plan with 5GB of data. Interestingly, the plan is set to grow as usage does by increasing the data allowance by 500MB a year for five years. This is by no means a huge amount, but for a low-income family, this can be a lifesaver.

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