The new Samsung Galaxy S24 series pre-orders are upon us, and T-Mobile is using the occasion to toot its own horn about 5G network advancements.

The new Samsung Galaxy 24 series comes with a lot of nifty features, like Circle to Search with Google and Live Translate. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon each announced their best offers for the latest in the Android flagship line-up.

But T-Mobile is here to remind everyone that its 5G Standalone (SA) network is ready to deliver the goods when it comes to the more advanced 5G features.

The S24 supports four-carrier aggregation downlink, which drives download speeds, and “soon” two-carrier uplink aggregation, which will provide a boost for all those content creators eager to share their videos. T-Mobile said it’s continuing to work with its other partners, but Samsung is first here.

According to T-Mobile, customers can get up to 90% faster uplink speeds than the previous Samsung lineup, making things like video uploads nearly twice as fast.

‘Miles ahead’ of rivals

Since the merger with Sprint, the team at T-Mobile has been “heads down” bringing the two networks together, and it now has more than 300 million people covered using its Ultra Capacity/mid-band 5G spectrum, said Grant Castle, VP, Device Engineering & Technology Labs at T-Mobile.

“We are miles ahead of the other guys that are still trying to do C-band deployments,” he said, referring to Verizon and AT&T’s prime mid-band spectrum for 5G.

Last year, T-Mobile announced how it had aggregated four channels of mid-band spectrum on its 5G SA network with the Samsung Galaxy S23.

The Galaxy S24 brings even greater performance. “We’ve doubled down on this,” Castle told Fierce. “We’ve seen great results from customers leveraging standalone in our mid-band frequencies, getting great speeds, and we’re really excited about this device.”

Some of their competitors have dragged their feet on moving to standalone, and “we think that’s going to hurt them longer term,” because they’re going to have to continue to devote spectrum for LTE, which means less spectrum for 5G and lower performance, he said.

T-Mobile has said that more than 70% of the smartphones on its network are 5G smartphones and more than 70% of its total network traffic is 5G. Over the next couple years, T-Mobile will move even more traffic onto 5G spectrum, although it will continue to maintain LTE capability for long-tail devices, according to Castle.

The S24 works on all of T-Mobile’s bands, including n41/2.5 GHz. It also supports the 600 MHz low band and n25/1900 MHz mid-band. During tests, T-Mobile engineers clocked a top uplink speed of 275 Mbps – the fastest ever recorded using sub-6 GHz spectrum, according to T-Mobile.

When do they expect to move beyond two CA on the uplink? “We’re working through that,” Castle said. One of the challenges is uplink technologies have FCC limits on how much power a handset can emit, and that’s for “very good reasons,” he said. “We may get to three,” but often what you find is when you do more CA, it’s for things like IoT devices that are not phones.

Long & winding road   

What is about SA that is so challenging? AT&T and Verizon are moving to SA, but they’re not entirely there yet. In 2022, T-Mobile launched 5G SA on is mid-band spectrum nationwide, but it still isn’t exactly swimming in 5G SA use cases.

According to Castle, 5G is relatively new from a technology perspective. 5G in an advanced form didn’t really start to get rolling until around 2022 and there are a lot of things that need to happen when bringing a new radio technology to market.   

That list of “to-dos” needs to get addressed in a certain order and combining two channels is only possible when a company can dedicate two or more different spectrum bands to the new technology.

“A lot of other carriers globally haven’t been able to dedicate as much spectrum to 5G” as T-Mobile, so they weren’t in a position to combine as many carriers together.

“We have just been more aggressive than anyone else in pushing more of our spectrum to 5G” knowing that it’s more spectrally efficient, he said. Each time they move more spectrum into 5G, they’re pushing the carrier aggregation levels. For example, they’re now working on the development of five carrier aggregation.

LTE had similar carrier aggregation capabilities, and that took a while. The thing about LTE is the biggest block of spectrum to aggregate was 20 MHz wide. With 5G, the biggest blocks are 100 MHz wide, so it’s five times more spectrum for one channel, and now, they’re doing four channels worth.

“It’s staggering to see that there was four-carrier aggregation in LTE and there’s now four-carrier aggregation in 5G,” but that translates to upwards of five times more because the channels are bigger in 5G.

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