T-Mobile 5G is rolling out now across the US and is taking advantage of different versions of 5G technology to help it improve coverage and capacity.
Similar to AT&T, T-Mobile has also rolled out a lot of low-band 5G, which isn't great for speeds. That so-called 5G Extended Range network was started in 2019 and is essentially 4G with a few enhancements to make it quicker. T-Mobile rightly calls it a "foundational layer of its 5G network" and while that's true, it's not really full 5G.
It does have the benefit of huge coverage though, cover more than 200 million people and more than 1 million square miles across the US - over 8,000 cities.
One thing's for sure - T-Mobile is gaining customers at some speed. Figures from the fourth quarter of 2019 point towards a million 'postpaid' customers; people who pay a monthly bill. 77,000 pay-as-you-go or prepaid customers were also added over the period.
T-Mobile remains the third biggest network in the US, despite it having absorbed the Sprint network in a protracted deal that closed during early 2020. After the acquisition, it has just over 100 million subscribers across the US.
According to the network, it has added 53 million users since 2013. Not surprising when you have had 27 successive quarters with over a million new users added.
Among the 5G test projects that T-Mobile has carried out, the network has been using 5G-embedded cameras to virtually put fans on the baseball field in order to catch the action from the players’ point of view and go behind the scenes. They're mounted on players hats and catchers masks - T-Mobile says this is the first time that 5G embeddable cameras have been integrated into a professional sports league event. Each camera features a real-time HD stream.
T-Mobile has also worked with Major League Baseball to create an augmented reality app for fans with bonus stat views for T-Mobile 5G customers.
In a measure of how T-Mobile sees itself, CEO Mike Sievert will deliver the keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2022.
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA: "The pace of innovation has accelerated over the last 18 months, and the rapid roll-out of 5G will only increase the momentum. There’s so much excitement in this space and for the first time, we welcome Mike Sievert to our keynote stage to share more about T-Mobile’s vision for fuelling 5G innovation."
Speed and reliability
In May 2021, RootMetrics released its first-ever 5G Scorecard, which shows the race between the US’s 5G networks. Although AT&T was best for Everyday 5G download speeds, T-Mobile offers the broadest Everyday 5G availability of any carrier according to the tests. RootMetrics tested the 125 most populated metropolitan markets in the US.
T-Mobile holds a significant lead in the race for Everyday 5G availability, according to RootMetrics, recording the highest Everyday 5G availability in 44 out of 65 total cities tested to date.
T-Mobile was also recently been hailed as the most reliable 5G network in the US according to consultancy Umlaut. The network had the best overall score of the US networks with an overall 707 points out of a maximum of 1000. The tests were carried out using the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
In a clear ranking of how the network rollout is panning out, Verizon scored second overall with 632 points with AT&T bringing up the rear with 599 points.
In terms of reliability, T-Mobile also achieved the highest score with 664 out of a maximum of 800 points. In contrast, Verizon ranked second with 560 points and again AT&T was third with 520 points.
"umlaut’s report is just the latest to prove customers and businesses alike can count on T-Mobile 5G to deliver a fast and reliable 5G connection in more places than anyone else," said T-Mobile's Neville Ray.
"While the other networks play catch up, we’ll keep adding more 5G coverage and capacity to bring a transformative experience to customers across the country."
Ookla also recently rated the network as the fastest 5G network in the US. The testing - carried out during the first quarter of 2021 - saw the network clock 82.35Mbps download speeds, followed by AT&T at 76.6Mbps and Verizon with 67.24Mbps. Ookla’s study also found that T-Mobile customers spent more time connected to a 5G network, than customers on rival 5G networks.
T-Mobile 5G cities
The 5G Extended Range network covers 8,300 US towns and cities. It is still be able to get to speeds of around 450Mbps if conditions are at their best, although expect significantly slower speeds than that generally. Essentially, it is like a quicker form of 4G LTE.
T-Mobile's Ultra Capacity network is different. It's a millimeter wave (mmWave) network similar to that which we've seen from the other US providers - but not providers in Europe. It provides the fastest speeds, but has poor range. T-Mobile says it is upgrading 1,000 cell towers a month for this, covering 100 million Americans. However, it is really only in some areas of the very largest cities at present.
T-Mobile 5G phones
T-Mobile originally offered the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ and the OnePlus 5G before launching the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren on an exclusive in the US.
Like most other networks offering 5G globally, T-Mobile has now added the Samsung Galaxy S20, S21 and iPhone 12 to its roster in 2020/21.
Apple iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini
The whole iPhone 12 range comes with the latest A14 Bionic platform so there's no performance limitation for going for one of these 6.1-inch or 5.4-inch handsets (the Pro has more RAM though). Both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini are available in Black, White, Red, Green, Blue.
The standard iPhone 12 is our pick of the iPhone 12 range.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max
The 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro doesn't do enough to distinguish itself from the same-sized iPhone 12.
However, the Pro Max certainly does with its huge 6.7-inch display and sheer desirability. The cameras are among the best we've seen, especially in low light. It's eye-wateringly expensive, though.
Google Pixel 4a 5G
While Google's best 5G phone is the Pixel 5 (not currently available on T-Mobile), the Pixel 4a 5G is certainly much more affordable. Not to be confused with the standard Pixel 4a, the 5G version is based around the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chipset and features a large 6.2-inch OLED display. There's a dual-camera setup with 12.2 megapixel wide and 16 megapixel ultrawide camera sensors and you'll get 128GB of storage and 6GB of memory, too. And, naturally being a Google phone, you're guaranteed of the latest Android updates.
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
Samsung's latest S Series phone is a hugely impressive 6.2-inch handset. It may longer be the only tech king in town, but it's still using bran new tech inside, with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 platform at its core. We like the triple cameras which are much better - particularly with low light - than earlier models. It also has decent battery life, too.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
At over half an inch bigger than the standard model, the 6.8-inch S21 Ultra is a luxury phone. The camera system just about makes it worth it if you want the best, with a five-camera setup that includes a 10x optical zoom. Like the standard S21 it runs on Qualcomm Snapdragon 888. There's even support for the S Pen stylus, too, should you want that.
Samsung Galaxy S20 5G
Capable of 8K video recording and with a large 6.2-inch AMOLED display, the standard S20 is no slouch, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 platform for the US market. Like the others in the range, it has super-fast charging, too.
Available in cloud pink, cloud blue and cosmic grey, it's only around in a 128GB version only.
There's a triple camera (not quad like the other S20s) and it has a 64 megapixel main sensor. It's also got a 30x digital zoom, too.
Samsung Galaxy S20+
The 6.7-inch S20+ is available in three colours - cloud blue, cosmic black and cosmic grey - and adds an extra storage size to the standard S20 in the form of 512GB in addition to 128GB.
Again it offers a 64 megapixel telephoto lens and 12MP ultra-wide camera setup, but the S20+ (and Ultra) offer quad-camera arrangements.
The price premium for the S20+ is not extensive over the standard S20 and as such is worth considering.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Slightly bigger - by 0.2-inches than the S20+ - the S20 Ultra clocks in at 6.9-inches and features an upgraded camera.
Storage capacities are the same as the S20+ at 128 and 512GB. However, the Ultra is only available in cosmic black or cosmic grey.
So what's better about the camera? Firstly there's the zoom - the S20 Ultra is capable of 100x (rather than 30x) while there's an extremely large 108 megapixel camera sensor to go alongside a 48 megapixel telephoto lens.
You won't find the 100x zoom that practical, but using it is fun.
T-Mobile 5G coverage
For its 5G Ultra Capacity network, T-Mobile is using 28 Ghz mmWave (millimetre wave), just as Verizon is. That means excellent download speeds, but a more difficult blanket rollout. That's because the shorter wavelength signals don't travel so far and are easily blocked in urban areas or by external walls - so you need loads of 5G nodes.
You only need to look at T-Mobile's current coverage maps to show the issues around mmWave deployment - it's extremely patchy.
So as we mentioned, T-Mobile has also opted to use low-band 600Mhz spectrum. The low-band spectrum can also carry 5G signals inside.
Before the T-Mobile launch of low-band 5G, Sprint was leading the way with low-band and it's one of the reasons that Sprint and T-Mobile felt they would be a good fit by merging, which they duly did.
T-Mobile 5G deals
In terms of SIM-only, T-Mobile 5G offers service plans at $15 for 2GB (not enough, in our opinion), and $25 for 5GB. The plans also offer 100GB of free monthly home internet to 10 million American families. And if that wasn’t enough, the company also gives free wireless service to every first responder in America.
Currently, Samsung Galaxy S20 5G is available on T-Mobile from $31.25 a month on a 24-month deal providing you put $349.99 down plus tax. You can also buy it outright from the network for $1,099.
Magenta Max is a new plan specifically made for a 5G world - it won't slow down based on how much data you use. T-Mobile says that nearly 50% of Magenta MAX customers use a 5G smartphone, and they use noticably more data – 43% more music, 48% more video and 26% more social media.
The network says that "on average these customers on average have each listened to the equivalent of 360 more songs, watched 576 more minutes of video and made 1,512 more posts on social media than our other customers."
T-Mobile 5G business and home internet
T-Mobile Business has announced three new plans as of early 2021. The three plans are: ‘Enterprise Unlimited’ plans, a set of business mobile tariffs to offer 5G with “unprecedented value”; ‘Home Office Internet’, providing a dedicated connection for business use; and ‘Collaborate’, which is a suite of mobile-first, cloud-based apps.
"Today we’re unveiling a comprehensive set of T-Mobile for Business solution, unlocked by our 5G network, to solve real problems, and empower business to do business whenever, and wherever they need to, and we’re calling it T-Mobile WFX, and it includes three key solutions to help businesses work from anywhere, says T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert.
T-Mobile Home Office Internet covers more than 60 million households at launch, close to half of all homes in America, with plans to cover more than 90 million households by 2025. And T-Mobile’s new Collaborate service will be available as part of ‘Enterprise Unlimited’, or on a standalone basis.
Pricing for T-Mobile Home Office Internet starts at $90 per line per month, and Enterprise Unlimited with T-Mobile Collaborate together start at $37 per line, per month; with T-Mobile available as a standalone product from $12 per month.
T-Mobile's Home Internet covers 30 million homes at present for $60 a month. "I’m proud to announce that we're launching T-Mobile Home Internet," said Mike Sievert, T-Mobile CEO at the launch of the service in April 2021.
"More than 30 million homes are now eligible. That's almost one in five American households available today. And that makes T-Mobile one of America's largest ISPs by service area - Verizon says they won't even reach that many homes in their fixed 5G wireless for nearly two more years.”
T-Mobile 5G for business
Like the other big US networks, T-Mobile sees big opportunities for businesses willing to invest in 5G, especially around the internet of things and remote connectivity.
In May 2021 T-Mobile for Business announced new small business rate plans and fixed wireless internet for small businesses. These plans feature unlimited talk, text, and data plus high-speed mobile hotspot data with every plan, more Premium Data and an option for unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi. Some plans also include Microsoft 365 subscriptions, too.
Like other networks, T-Mobile has its fair share of test bed tech. The latest is a driverless car service in Las Vegas powered by T-Mobile 5G. Yep, no driver - Halo began driving on Las Vegas public highways earlier this year - you simply summon a vehicle using a mobile the app.
The car picks you up, drops you off and carries on to its next destination. However, while it is driverless, it is not fully autonomous; the vehicles use proprietary RemotePilot tech where drivers remotely operate the vehicle over the 5G network. The car will come to a safe stop if a hazard is detected while the vehicles are learning using AI in order to work towards eventual Level 3 autonomy.
According to an early 2021 report by Accenture, the pandemic has changed the way people work and socialize, with 79% of respondents wanting to work from a “third space” – a location other than their home or workplace.
T-Mobile also collaborates with universities and standards bodies to support 5G technology research and development, operating the T-Mobile Accelerator, T-Mobile Ventures investment fund. It's also a co-founder of the 5G Open Innovation Lab.
Meanwhile, 87% of enterprises expect their employees to work from home three or more days per week - tomorrow's office is pretty much anywhere.