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T-Mobile rolls out the first standalone 5G network

The new network could deliver higher speeds, better range, and lower lag.

Published onAugust 4, 2020

T-Mobile taco Tuesday NYC logo
  • T-Mobile has launched what it says is the first standalone 5G network in the world.
  • The dedicated service could deliver higher speeds, longer range, and reduced lag.
  • It could help the carrier overcome the performance limits of low-band 5G.

T-Mobile remains determined to claim an edge in 5G service over rival US carriers, and that now includes networks dedicated to the new wireless technology.

The provider has launched what it says is the “world’s first” standalone 5G network. Instead of piggybacking on existing LTE networks, T-Mobile is now using exclusively 5G systems that, in theory, aren’t held back by legacy components. The carrier is promising numerous improvements, although it may take a while to see the benefits.

To start, the move lets 600MHz (low-band) 5G reach “beyond” the mid-band signal, allowing a single cell tower to cover “hundreds” of square miles and reach deeper into buildings. The switch immediately expands the overall 5G footprint by 30%, T-Mobile claimed. You may get 5G service in new areas, and this could improve speeds in areas where signal strength held it back.

The company also touted lower latency, with up to a 40% reduction in lag in tests. Real-world experiences will vary, of course, but this bodes well if you rely on 5G for online gaming, video chats, connected cars, or anything else that depends on instantaneous responses.

You may need a software update to unlock the full potential of standalone 5G networks, but T-Mobile is promising improvements from OnePlus, Qualcomm, and Samsung.

T-Mobile won’t overtake the best performance of AT&T and Verizon (disclaimer: this author also writes for Verizon-owned Engadget). Those companies offer millimeter wave 5G that, at its best, delivers gigabit-class download speeds. Standalone 5G should close some of the gap, however, and T-Mobile’s network now has an even larger advantage in terms of sheer coverage. If you’re more interested in simply connecting to 5G than getting the fastest data possible, this is welcome news.

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