T-Mobile announced today that it has achieved several "firsts" as it works on its standalone 5G network. A standalone 5G network uses a 5G New Radio (NR) system and a 5G packet core; the latter is a technology that allows voice and data to run over the same architecture. A non-standalone 5G network uses the 5G NR but works with a 4G LTE packet core. Carriers are using the non-standalone network to start transitioning subscribers to 5G while eventually, the goal is to build standalone 5G networks. Or as T-Mobile puts it, "In tech terms, standalone 5G will eliminate the need for a mid-band LTE anchor, cutting out some of the limitations experienced today." The carrier says that only with standalone 5G networks can the full promise of 5G be unlocked.
Standalone 5G will help the next generation of wireless unlock its full potential
And 5G is expected to help create new businesses and technologies including driverless vehicles. HD movies that take 20 minutes to download today will take just seconds to load using 5G. The countries that are among the first to harness the faster download data speeds available with the next generation of wireless connectivity could experience an economic boom.
So what are these firsts that T-Mobile is proud of? Glad you asked. T-Mobile says that it has completed the first standalone 5G data sessions between "commercial modems from two suppliers on a production network with Cisco, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc." The wireless provider also handled the first low-band call on a standalone 5G network using technology that delivers high-quality voice using Voice over LTE (VoLTE) while the industry finishes developing VoNR (Voice over New Radio). The companies that provided the technology for this test include Cisco, Ericsson, MediaTek, and Nokia.
T-Mobile also announced the first low-band VoNR call on a production network helped along by Cisco, Ericsson, MediaTek, and Nokia. VoNR allows voice calls to be routed over 5G. And if voice calls can run over a 5G New Radio, video can too. T-Mobile announced that it successfully completed the first ViNR (Video over New Radio) call on a production network with partners Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, and Qualcomm Technologies. With ViNR, high-quality video calls can be run natively without requiring an app to be installed.
And more exciting, T-Mobile achieved several 5G firsts using a commercial smartphone on a production network. With help from Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, OnePlus, and Qualcomm Technologies, T-Mobile goes into the record books for handling the first low-band standalone 5G data session, first call with Evolved Packet System fallback, and the first Voice over New Radio and Video over New Radio calls. T-Mobile confirmed to us that a OnePlus 5G handset was used for this test.
Now that T-Mobile has acquired Sprint's hoard of 2.5GHz mid-band spectrum, the carrier says that its 5G speeds will hit eight times its 4G LTE speeds in a few years, rising to 16 times faster in six years. The mid-band spectrum, hard to find in the U.S., will also allow T-Mobile to provide improved service in rural areas of the country.
Right now T-Mobile's nationwide 5G network uses the carrier's 600MHz airwaves. Low-band signals travel farther and penetrate buildings better than higher-band airwaves. However, they also don't have the capacity of the latter and deliver slower download data speeds. The company is looking to combine its 600MHz spectrum with the 2.5GHz airwaves it now has acquired, and its high-band mmWave spectrum. The result, according to some analysts, could be the fastest 5G network in the states.
Neville Ray, T-Mobile's president of technology says, "Powerful and reliable wireless networks are more important than ever, and these milestones mark a huge step forward for the entire wireless ecosystem. Standalone 5G, paired with the broad and deep network we’re building by combining the assets of T-Mobile and Sprint, will accelerate 5G adoption and services and transform wireless!"