T-Mobile US has launched its standalone 5G network, claiming a world first with nationwide coverage for the high-speed mobile technology. The launch expands the operator’s 5G coverage to nearly 2,000 more cities and towns while also bringing 5G signals deeper into buildings.
The company kicked off a marketing campaign to mark the milestone with a light show over the town of Lisbon, North Dakota, with drones spelling out “5G is here” in the sky. The carrier plans similar events in the future as it focuses on wider 5G availability compared to rivals AT&T and Verizon.
Standalone 5G is predicated on the launch of a 5G core network, which ends reliance on legacy LTE architecture, according to the operator. T-Mobile said it also means that its 600 MHz band spectrum can do more, covering hundreds of square miles from a single tower and going deeper into buildings than before. In total, the company increased its 5G footprint by 30 percent, to reach 1.3 million square miles in more than 7,500 cities and towns across the U.S.
T-Mobile worked with Cisco and Nokia to build its 5G core, and with Ericsson and Nokia for the 5G radio infrastructure. OnePlus, Qualcomm Technologies and Samsung have helped the carrier ensure that existing devices can access standalone 5G with a software update, based on compatibility.
It seems that T-Mobile has scored a coup with its announcement of a standalone nationwide 5G network. Working with its technology partners, the operator has gained several distinct advantages in the mobile technology contest that is currently heating up.
The main strength for T-Mobile—which acquired fourth-ranking U.S. operator Sprint in April 2020—is the availability of its network compared to those of its larger competitors AT&T and Verizon. A footprint that is truly nationwide is an excellent selling point for a national operator, as it will not only be able to provide 5G services in the greatest number of markets but also will provide customers and potential customers with confidence that wherever they happen to travel within the U.S., their T-Mobile 5G service will be usable and deliver the level of functionality they expect.
The standalone nature of the network is also an important source of strength, in that it allows the operator not to have to depend on legacy 4G/LTE technology and therefore to maximize efficiency and focus on further development of 5G. Another source of efficiency is that the new network’s 600 MHz spectrum allows for more coverage per tower. It also has the particular advantage of being able to penetrate walls of buildings, another calling card for the operator that should prove especially appealing to enterprise customers that operate office buildings, factories and other large structures.
To compete, AT&T and Verizon will of course need to catch up in terms of national coverage, but in the meantime they may have other selling points. For example, Verizon this week announced a “first” of its own—that it completed roaming interoperability trials with 5G networks in South Korea. While global 5G roaming is not yet ready for the consumer market, Verizon is positioning itself be competitive in a different way from that of T-Mobile.