T-Mobile recently announced the nationwide availablility of their low-band, 600MHz 5G, expected to be 20 percent faster than 4G. If VentureBeat’s testing is any indication, T-Mobile subscribers should be very happy with real-world speeds.
With 5G rollout dominating the news, one thing that has quickly become obvious is not all 5G is created equal. Most carriers around the world are focusing on low-band 5G, offering relatively modest speed boosts in exchange for wider coverage. In the U.S., however, carriers are focusing heavily on millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G.
mmWave refers to the spectrum between 24 and 100GHz. Because very little of this spectrum is used for anything else, it offers carriers a tremendous amount of unused bandwidth. The short wavelength also offers transfer speeds much faster than older 4G, with speed measured in gigabits rather than megabits. Unfortunately, that speed comes at the expense of range and penetration, with mmWave base stations having effective ranges in the hundreds of yards. Similarly, buildings, trees, windows, even a hand, can negatively impact the quality of the signal.
T-Mobile, therefore, decided to focus on 600MHz low-band 5G for its nationwide rollout while it continues to slowly build out its mmWave service. Initial estimates predicted a modest 20 percent speed increase over existing 4G, which VentureBeat reporter Jeremy Horwitz decided to put to the test.
“Thankfully, my initial testing of T-Mobile’s low-band 5G network revealed a more complex reality than the company’s conservative figure,” Horwitz wrote. “The good news is that low-band 5G downloads peaked at 227Mbps, 2-4 times faster than T-Mobile’s LTE service at the same locations, and far higher than the aforementioned 20% estimate. But the bad news is that you won’t always achieve the peak speeds, and — surprise — early T-Mobile 5G phone adopters can’t actually use 5G for tethering, only smartphone service.”
T-Mobile is taking a three-tier approach, with 600MHz for the low-band and mmWave for the high-speed, short-range portions. If the merger with Sprint goes through, T-Mobile will use Sprint’s 2.5GHz spectrum to bridge the gap as faster, medium-range service.
The fact that T-Mobile’s low-band 5G is already beating expectations is a good sign for the company and its subscribers moving forward.