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T-Mobile 5G service and 5G-capable devices: Everything you need to know

T-Mobile 5G service is active in certain areas of the country and you can buy 5G-capable phones from the carrier.
March 7, 2020
A T-Mobile employee selling T-Mobile 5G service while wearing a black t-shirt with the T-Mobile logo.
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

We’ve been hearing a lot about 5G service over the past few years and how it is going to change the world. While 5G is certainly a revolution in a macro sense, how is it going to affect you, the wireless consumer? If you’re interested in learning more about T-Mobile 5G service specifically, you’ve come to the right place.

As with the other big wireless carriers in the United States (Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint), T-Mobile is putting a huge priority on rolling out its 5G network as quickly as possible. However, the company has been upfront about the fact that it doesn’t care about being “first” — instead, it wants to deliver the best and most reliable network at the appropriate time.

Therefore, the T-Mobile 5G service might be slightly behind when compared to the competition. Don’t let that make you think about switching providers, though, because the company has some really cool stuff going on right now and the future is looking very bright.

Continue below to learn all about T-Mobile 5G services, phones, and more!

T-Mobile 5G service: The network of the future

A T-Mobile 5G promotional photo of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, which supports 5G and 600MHz bands.

Of all the major carriers in the US, T-Mobile might have the best plan when it comes to rolling out 5G service. Verizon and AT&T are relying solely on millimeter wave (mmWave) technology to distribute 5G signals. While mmWave is really fast and offers very low latency, it isn’t great at penetrating buildings. Plants, trees, and even rain can also absorb the signal and weaken it.

To combat this, Verizon and AT&T are focusing on installing short-range cell networks — kind of like a Wi-Fi network extender you would use in your home, but on a much larger scale. These short-range extenders connect with normal cell towers and help distribute mmWave signal in areas where it would be weak, such as crowded cities.

Related: Taking T-Mobile’s brand new 5G network for a spin in New York City

Meanwhile, T-Mobile is instead using its collection of 600MHz spectrum as the foundation of the T-Mobile 5G service. The 600MHz band — sometimes referred to as Band 71 — is much better at penetrating buildings and works well over longer distances. However, it isn’t as fast as mmWave signals. T-Mobile will combine this strategy with the short-range cell strategy that Verizon and AT&T are using to create what could be the nation’s best 5G service.

On December 2, 2019, T-Mobile switched on Band 71-based 5G service all across the United States. That means over 200 million customers can now access 5G speeds on their 5G-capable devices (see below for more info on this). Depending on where you live, you might have access to both the Band 71-based 5G as well as the mmWave 5G. Read on for more info!

Where is T-Mobile 5G service active?

T-Mobile 5G Network Review NYC coverage map

Unlike Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint, T-Mobile actually advertises exactly where its 5G service is active. Not only will the map tell you which cities are “switched on,” but also the specific parts of those cities where 5G service can likely be found.

Meanwhile, the other three wireless carriers just tell you which cities are active and don’t advertise how much (or how little) of the city is actually covered.

Now, it should be clarified that that coverage map only shows you Band 71-based signals, not mmWave signals. The 5G rollout for Band 71 signals is huge — in fact, chances are good you can access Band 71 5G right now, assuming you have a capable device.

The mmWave rollout is much smaller. As of right now, these are the places where T-Mobile mmWave 5G service is active:

  • New York, NY (Manhattan and Brooklyn only)
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Dallas, TX
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Atlanta, GA

With everything as it is now, the logical thing to do would be to buy a phone capable of connecting to both mmWave signals and Band 71 signals. As of now, the two highest-end models in the Samsung Galaxy S20 series are the only phones capable of this. Read further down to find out more about devices.

How much does T-Mobile 5G service cost?

If you buy a T-Mobile 5G-capable smartphone right now and connect it to your existing T-Mobile account, you won’t need to pay a penny more for 5G service. As of today, 5G connections have no extra associated costs as long as you are on a T-Mobile post-paid unlimited plan (Magenta or Magenta Plus).

What’s more, you can use as much 5G data as you like on those unlimited plans. Of course, you still might get throttled after using 50GB of data, but there won’t be any overage charges.

Obviously, this will likely change in the future. For now, though, the cost of entry for seeing those blazing fast 5G speeds is simply the cost of the 5G phone. See the next section for more on that!

What are the 5G-capable phones you can get at T-Mobile?

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G display

As of today, there are five 5G-ready smartphones available directly from T-Mobile and one 5G smartphone that the carrier doesn’t sell but will work on its network. The five you can buy right now from the carrier are as follows:

Of those devices, only the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra are capable of connecting to both Band 71 and mmWave networks. The other three devices will only connect to Band 71 signals.

You can also buy the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G instead. That device is unique in that it only supports mmWave connections. T-Mobile used to sell the device but now is all-in on Band 71. If you buy the Galaxy S10 5G unlocked from another source and bring it to T-Mobile, though, you should be able to access mmWave connections in the very few areas of the US where it is available.

What does the future hold?

Over the past year or so, T-Mobile has been hard at work attempting to merge with Sprint. As of right now, the two companies have the regulatory approval necessary for that to happen.

When this does happen, the “new” T-Mobile (the merged companies will simply be known as T-Mobile) will not only have all the 5G groundwork it’s laid down for itself, but also the work Sprint has done on its own. This will put T-Mobile in an incredibly advantageous position when it comes to the T-Mobile 5G network.

However, if for some strange reason the merger doesn’t happen (which is an unlikely scenario at this point), T-Mobile will still have plenty of groundwork set for being a viable competitor in the 5G market.