It’s time to look at where T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) is at with standalone (SA) 5G in our ongoing summer of standalone series.
T-Mobile was the first mobile network operator in the world to switch on a standalone (SA) 5G network. It turned on its 600 MHz low-band nationwide 5G SA network on August 4, 2020, beating even Chinese operators like China Mobile (SHA: 600941) to the punch.
Unlike its U.S. rivals like AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), the magenta mobile operator moved quickly to a pure 5G core, rather than relying on a 5G radio access network (RAN) with a 4G control plane to set up and manage calls and subscriber information. Meanwhile, many major operators are still using a 5G RAN on top of a 4G core for their 5G offering, although some have started to switch to pure 5G.
T-Mobile followed the 600 MHz launch with a mid-November 2022 roll out of 5G SA on its faster 2.4 GHz mid-band network in the U.S. At the time, then-President of Networks Neville Ray said that the more spectrally efficient 5G SA deployment would increase network performance and capacity.
Recently, we asked T-Mobile for an update on its standalone stakes. Here’s what they said:
“Every device that we’ve carried since launching nationwide 5G back in 2020 supports our 5G SA network,” a T-Mobile spokesperson told us via email.
This is quite different from other rivals like AT&T, which currently supports the latest Apple iPhone 13 and 14 phones, as well as the Samsung S21 and S22 family with 5G SA.
As existing mid-band 5G customers switch to a new device, they will be able to access 5G SA, T-Mobile said. “While nearly all T-Mobile 5G customers enjoy SA in low-band today, customers upgrading to a current 5G device will enjoy SA in mid-band as well,” the spokesperson wrote.
The T-Mobile spokesperson noted that the operator has already started to deploy 5G SA-only services like 5G voice. “We have already launched new capabilities that are 5G SA-specific like [voice-over-New Radio] VoNR and 5G 3 carrier aggregation,” the spokesperson wrote.
In fact, your correspondent can confirm that voice-over-5G (also known as voice-over-New Radio) was switched on recently in the New York area.
T-Mobile hasn’t yet said when it will start to offer enterprise-specific services like network slicing. “There’s much more to come so stay tuned!” the spokesperson noted.
Verizon has just started network slicing trials following its move to a 5G core in mid-October 2022. So we might expect some network slicing moves from T-Mobile later in 2023 or in 2024.
Well, we’ve covered what AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have done with 5G SA so far. We only need to get an update from greenfield 5G operator Dish to complete this standalone summer road trip. Stay tuned!
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