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T-Mobile’s calling out “Nationwide” 5G

  • 25 November 2020
  • 42 replies
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T-Mobile’s calling out “Nationwide” 5G
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Everyone’s been talking about 5G. But if you talk the talk, can you walk the walk? T-Mobile’s been transparent about 5G since introducing the layer cake concept in 2018. It’s time to explain why T-Mobile’s 5G can compete with the other carriers and call out the myths surrounding “nationwide” coverage.

T-Mobile’s 5G

Building out 5G coverage for all T-Mobile customers is always ongoing. The foundation starts with doing right by customers. Making false claims and only providing a fraction of customers with 5G isn’t doing right by them. The T-Mobile 5G network is constantly improving and working towards reaching EVERYONE.

How?

The three layered strategy. Low-band covers larger land area for more reliability. Mid-Band covers a broad area balancing speed and range. High-Band gives super-fast data speeds for smaller areas.

Mid-band is already reaching 410 cities and towns and will reach 100 million people by the end of this year! Speeds in mid-band areas are averaging 300Mbps and peaking around 1 Gbps.

Imagine what you can do with those speeds! So what say you? If you had to choose one 5G phone, what would it be?

5G phones

iPhone 12

Galaxy S20 5G

Pixel 4a (5G)

OnePlus 8T+ 5G

Fact-Checking

Check out this video breakdown for more info about 5G coverage and comment below with your feedback.

 


42 replies

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Sadly, I’ve been to many places like this, and will be in a couple of weeks.  Sadly, T-Mobile’s old maps used to claim that this was all ‘fair coverage’ and 4G LTE verified by customer until last August.  Now its mostly ‘No Service’ areas.  On a good note, I can now state that T-Mobile’s maps are more accurate, actually stating ‘No Service’ in ‘No Service’ areas, vs MS-Paint fill bucket with magenta.

I can’t even get 2G or 3G - never mind 5G - service is nonexistent

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I agree with your essential points… T-Mobile 5G in San Francisco has much to be desired.  Sadly, many locations are like this.

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@formercanuck

Alas, I do not agree, and further debate looks to be pointless, so we'll just have to agree to disagree.

My essential points remain:

1. T-mobile finally lit up 5G in San Francisco after months of showing it on coverage maps.

2. T-Mobile 5G in San Francisco is not yet an improvement over LTE. It's often slower.

3. Turning off 5G currently can make for a better T-Mobile experience in San Francisco.

Feel free to have the last word, and have a nice day!

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T-Mobile does not use DSS (at least not yet).  Verizon does.  T-Mobile doesn’t need it, assuming it can redeploy Sprint’s 2500MHz gear quickly.  At some point, they’ll have to refarm PCS and/or AWS bands.  I suspect only one at time, or NSA will cease to function.

https://www.androidcentral.com/heres-every-us-city-5g-coverage-right-now

Userlevel 4
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This is from the same site

 

Userlevel 4
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Different of supports both… and is transmitting both.   These are 2 different sites.

 

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@formercanuck 

The cell I'm connected to supports both LTE and 5G (DSS).

Userlevel 4
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These are also different cells.  LTE is a ½ mile NR is about 2

 

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@formercanuck 

No, that's a different tower.

Look at all the images.

Userlevel 4
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You can see that the NSA 5G site is weak - at -107dBm.  Not from the same site as LTE B4/66.

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@formercanuck 

Please don't put words in my mouth. What likely caused my call to drop was T-Mobile switching on NSA 5G, not the 5G indicator on my phone. Regardless, it's not an important issue. I mentioned it only because it drew my attention to the first appearance of 5G on this phone.

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  1.  Then your 5G indicator shouldn’t cause a call to drop.
  2.  Good.  
  3. Then you know when T-Mobile will deploy more n71 and n41.
  4. Yes… 
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1. I'm aware the 5G indicator does not necessarily mean that it's actually using 5G at any given time.

2. I know the locations of the few 5G towers in San Francisco.

3. I'm not guessing. I've discussed the 5G deployment with a T-Mobile network tech.

4. My speeds speak for themselves. At the end of the day that's all that matters.

Userlevel 4
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Similarly… 5G .. or is it.  Lastly, 5G NSA  B2LTE, B4 LTE, B71 LTE and n41 NSA

 

 

 

Userlevel 4
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  1. Disagree or not… the ‘5G indicator’ doesn’t always mean that you’re using 5G service.  Its more of the 4G LTE station supporting 5G NSA AND your device’s 5G radio sensing NR service.  
  2. That will vary.  Not all 5G NSA signals are from the same tower as LTE.  Eg.  I have a local site that has 5G n71 (and n41) ~2 miles away, and an LTE only (no B41/B71/n41/n71) site 2000’ away.  Service picks up .. both.  How can I be sure ?   Force to LTE only - and cellmapper/etc. ID it.  When forced to NR only - it points to the same ID as the site ~2 miles away.
  3. SA 5G n71 is deployed on any site that support NSA n71.  n41 on former Sprint spectrum may not be deployed yet in your area.  I also can’t say whether or not it will be SA or NSA.  5G NSA n41 will also improve service ‘dramatically’, as it has wide amount of spectrum.  Currently, not 100% of former Sprint spectrum is used for 5G.  ~40MHz in SoCal (out of ~100MHz?) is used for LTE on B41.
  4. Not referring so much as to San Francisco performance, but more of the SA/NSA comments.  Ie.  60MHz of n71 should be good for ~450Mbps.  aggregate that with ~40MHz of LTE, and you’re pushing 700Mbps.  In general, n41 (and even B41) will help out San Fran areas, as urban areas need more of the mid band for spectrum reuse.
  5. All things being equal… it does.  The problem is 20MHz of SA can’t compete with 20MHz NSA + 45MHz of LTE, especially when 5G is deployed only on a handful of sites.  Convert ALL of the LTE to SA, and you’re right.  San Francisco doesn’t have that deployed.  Few areas have n41+n71 on all sites.

I will agree with it probably being slower in San Fran due to few sites deployed, and n71 at 20MHz is not enough to do much - its more of a T-Mobile advertising message of ‘We have 5G’…   Having ~5 sites in San Fran isn’t enough capacity for any carrier on any spectrum.  Having more sites on n71 and n41 will solve it.  I suspect that it will take time in San Fran, as its NIMBY/regulatory nightmare.

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  1. I disagree. My phone doesn’t drop calls. It was not just a coincidence. Network switch to NSA 5G is non-trivial.
  2. Signal strength is the same. With NSA, 5G is coming from the LTE tower. That NSA 5G is often slower than LTE is a known issue, especially where wideband LTE has been deployed. And I’ve seen the same results in other locations.
  3. SA 5G is not yet deployed in San Francisco. When that happens, using the Sprint spectrum, 5G is expected to improve dramatically.
  4. “Your mileage may vary.” In other words, performance will differ in different areas. My performance comments apply only to San Francisco.
  5. All other things being equal, SA 5G performs much better than NSA 5G, as confirmed by many technical articles.

I've now run a lot more tests, and 5G is so often slower than LTE (on top of consuming more battery power) that I've reconfigured my phone to prefer LTE until T-Mobile makes 5G more compelling here, probably with SA 5G on the Sprint spectrum. I'm disappointed, but not terribly surprised, because a T-Mobile network tech told me that they have often needed to do that.

Userlevel 4
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There’s a whole bunch of things mentioned that don’t all go together…

  1.  Phone dropped the call when it switched to 5G.  VoNR is not yet supported, meaning that the 5G indicator may be on… but your call is still 4G LTE.  Its more than likely that your call dropped for one reason or another, and 5G showed up.
  2. Testing in a limited signal area with 5G (NSA) can actually be worse than 4G LTE itself.  I have this often occur.  Weak 5G signal + strong LTE signal = ‘either’ slightly better performance OR much worse.
  3. 6.48Mbps vs. 4.35Mbps is not a significant bump.  Being in San Fran, there’s a lot more people, and with the only 5G channel being n71 ~20MHz on a handful of sites - it will saturate quickly.  Urban areas is where low band usage isn’t always optimal.   SA probably won’t help much here, but I may be wrong.  In theory, if your device supports 5G SA, then you would probably be on 5G SA where LTE is saturated.  I have this occur where I am at times.
  4. 5G SA vs. NSA typically gives a boost to existing under most locations.  Eg.  At home, 5G SA (n71) gives ~4-5Mbps.  5G NSA (n71 + LTE) gives me +110Mbps. 
  5. When I’m in an area with strong n71 SA, i can peak around 150Mbps… typically only ~70Mbps due to the amount of 5G devices now on the market/in the area, while with 5G NSA in those same areas, its typically +300Mbps to 400Mbps, and ~200-250Mbps on LTE.  In the few areas with n41 spectrum, that number will reach past 700Mbps on 5G NSA.  SA’s main advantage right now is in lower latency, typically being around 10-13ms vs 18-30ms.  More locations need to be deployed before 5G becomes ‘useful’ - at least in urban areas.
  6. T-Mobile doesn't use DSS… Verizon does.  NSA is not DSS.  NSA just means ‘requires LTE band as an anchor’ IE. carrier aggregate of LTE of band x with 5G of band y.  DSS is effectively a form of time slicing of service between LTE and NR of the same spectrum.  Its not super efficient, but works in a pinch.
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5G sucks in San Francisco:

 

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T-Mobile has finally enabled 5G in San Francisco. I was on a phone call this morning when it happened, and my Pixel 4a (5G) phone dropped the call when it switched to 5G.

This far I've only done a limited amount of data speed testing, and not in a terribly good signal location. It's better than LTE, but only modestly; e.g., 6.48 Mbps down on 5G vs 4.35 Mbps down on LTE. That's probably because the current T-Mobile 5G deployment here is NSA/DSS (non-standalone, dynamic spectrum sharing with LTE). It should be a lot faster when T-Mobile enables SA (standalone) with the acquired Sprint spectrum.
 

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This should get interesting…. BBB complaint literally fell on deaf ears.  It was take it or leave it.  Sent to FCC.  Engineering ticket has been reopened.

Userlevel 4
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Well… Looks like T-Mobile’s left hand doesn’t meet its right hand… again in SLOCal.

T-Mobile has not acknowledged the issue in ‘writing’  per se, but their Office of Executive Management has supported that their ‘5G’ site in San Simeon, CA (Vista Del Mar) has ‘capacity issues’, and their is no plan to fix it.  Town population 400.

Typically, with AWS B4 20x20 + B71 10x10 and 5g n71, I should be easily hitting 300Mbps.  Peaking at 1Mbps is awful.  Something tells me they only have a handful of T1’s or ‘business ethernet’ setup.

The site is on the Motel 6.

This is the area: https://www.google.com/maps/@35.6117911,-121.1428829,3a,75y,306.52h,103.69t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sI-MAk4LCc2rSzwDAUKyOaQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

 

 

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Its good that the complaint is being fielded.  The Cellmapper maps are ‘pretty accurate’ where they’ve been mapped.  Not all devices (iOS) support cellmapper, and similarly, not all devices map 5G properly (esp under 5G NSA).

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@formercanuck

Alas, crowdsourced maps are not accurate.

UPDATE:

T-Mobile called me in response my FCC Complaint, and promised to get back to me with accurate 5G information for San Francisco. :fingers_crossed:

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