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What does 5G UC mean? Is it better than regular 5G?
If you’re a T-Mobile customer in the US, chances are that your smartphone has displayed a 5G UC badge at some point. While most of us already know that 5G is the successor to 4G LTE, the exact differences between various types of 5G aren’t often talked about. Here’s everything you need to know about the 5G UC logo on your smartphone.
T-Mobile uses the 5G UC label, short for Ultra Capacity, to refer to its fastest networks. Unlike regular 5G networks, you can expect faster speeds than 4G LTE as well as better reliability in crowded areas.
What is 5G UC?
Not all 5G networks are equal — you can get a vastly different experience from one area to the next, both in terms of speed as well as range. This is because the 5G spectrum is utilized differently in each area.
In simpler terms, a 5G network can be either low-band, mid-band, or mmWave. T-Mobile has two different types of branding to distinguish between these flavors, namely XR and UC.
5G XR and UC indicate two different types of 5G.
T-Mobile refers to low-band 5G deployments as Extended Range 5G, or 5G XR. Much of the company’s “nationwide 5G coverage” claim is built on top of the low-band part of the 5G spectrum.
Low-band 5G is the least exciting 5G band as it operates on many of the same frequencies as 4G LTE. This means that you cannot expect blazing fast speeds, but it does offer latency improvements. It also offers far better coverage than the other two bands. You’re most likely to find low-band 5G in less developed areas as it requires less expensive infrastructure.
Read more: What is 5G, and what can we expect from it?
If you live in a big city, however, you may find your smartphone picking up a 5G UC signal. This label indicates T-Mobile’s mmWave and mid-band 5G deployments.
mmWave and mid-band 5G are at the other end of the spectrum as low-band, quite literally. These operate at much higher frequencies than prior cellular generations. They not only enable download speeds of nearly 1 Gbps but also reduce the chances of congestion in crowded areas.
5G UC indicates your phone is communicating over the fastest mmWave or mid-band frequencies.
Indeed, mmWave is what you might think of when visualizing the jump from 4G to 5G. However, it’s not omnipresent. High frequencies suffer from limited range, so they’re best deployed in dense urban environments. Even then, obstacles like walls can have a large impact on signal strength.
Finally, we have mid-band 5G. Simply put, it’s the middle ground between mmWave and low-band 5G. It offers small improvements over 4G while still maintaining coverage over large areas.
Is 5G UC faster than regular 5G?
T-Mobile’s 5G UC network is indeed faster than regular 5G in the sense that it will always offer better-than-4G speeds. On the other hand, the company’s Extended Range 5G (5G XR) is designed to cover large areas like 4G did. In other words, it does not prioritize speed to the same degree as 5G UC.
The trade-off with 5G UC is that you will only find it in major cities because of the high infrastructure costs and limited range. You can check if your neighborhood has 5G UC coverage by checking T-Mobile’s coverage map.
However, the 5G UC logo on your smartphone doesn’t tell you whether you’re connected to the fastest possible band. This is because only a handful of smartphones have the required hardware for mmWave 5G. If your smartphone only supports sub-6GHz 5G, you’ll still get 5G UC but only up to mid-band networks and not beyond.
Furthermore, keep in mind that every carrier has its own label for high-speed 5G deployments. AT&T uses “5G Plus”, for example, while Verizon calls it “5G UW”.
5G UC stands for Ultra Capacity 5G. It is T-Mobile’s branding for mid-band and mmWave 5G networks.
On T-Mobile, 5G UC is faster than regular 5G since it uses higher frequencies than regular 5G (also known as 5G XR). The same is true for Verizon’s 5G UW and AT&T’s 5G+ networks.
5G Ultra Capacity (5G UC) relies on mid-band and high-band frequencies that aren’t very commonplace outside big cities. If your smartphone has to constantly hunt for a signal, you may see inferior battery life compared to standard 5G or 4G LTE.