PSA: You need one small but very important thing to access T-Mobile's standalone 5G network

PSA: You need one small but very important thing to access T-Mobile's standalone 5G network
It's certainly not easy to keep up with all the 5G breakthroughs, developments, upgrades and expansions pulled off in recent months and planned for the near future by the second-largest wireless service provider stateside, but even by T-Mobile's industry-leading standards, one particular advancement stood out back in early August.

That was when the "Un-carrier" not only managed to beat Verizon and AT&T to the punch, but also every other mobile network operator in the world with a first-of-its-kind nationwide standalone 5G launch. The groundbreaking move improved Magenta's already towering 5G availability by 30 percent, spreading the next-gen cellular signal to almost 2,000 additional cities and towns for a grand total of over 7,500 such locations covering no less than 1.3 million square miles.

Here's how you can easily tell if you need a new SIM card

While the standalone 5G connectivity is widely considered a potential long-term game changer, its current impact on speeds and latency is minimal at best. Still, if you want to be prepared for the impending upgrades enabled by this state-of-the-art technology, you'll have to make sure you can actually access the standalone architecture.

As highlighted by T-Mobile on one of its official support webpages and as select customers are reportedly being informed or reminded by text, you might need to swap out your SIM card to "enable the best 5G network experience." The good news is that doesn't apply to the vast majority of T-Mo's subscribers, so don't go running to a nearby store just yet.

Instead, the smartest thing to do is remove your current SIM card from your phone and look for the "R15" text in pink. If you can find that, you're good to go. If not and you see the letters "TM" followed by 4 numbers, you'll need to switch to a new SIM. 

But even in this case, you may not have to contact the carrier and request a fancy new SIM card after all, as said fancy card should have come in the box of your T-Mobile 5G-capable device at the time of its original purchase or shipment. So, yeah, perhaps it's a good idea to locate that box and check to see if you forgot the SIM card inside, sticking to an old one out of negligence or laziness.

The number of compatible phones is set to grow soon enough 

In addition to a standalone 5G-compatible SIM card, of course, you'll also need a handset that supports the technology, and although T-Mobile plans to "eventually" deliver software updates to "all 5G capable devices" in order to activate the feature, that hasn't happened yet.

Unfortunately, there's no full and official list of currently compatible smartphones, but we do know Samsung's Galaxy S20 family has received the aforementioned necessary update a little while ago, followed by the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G earlier this week.

In case you're wondering, a standalone 5G connection is fundamentally different from a non-standalone (NSA) signal, operating independently of a 4G LTE network and thus promising major speed upgrades and heavily reduced latency... at some point down the line.

Obviously, both Verizon and AT&T have plans to follow T-Mobile's suit in this crucial 5G development field in the near future, while Dish aims to build its 5G network on standalone architecture from the ground up, having no 4G LTE technology of its own to rely on for a non-standalone 5G rollout.

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