Verizon moves one step closer to a major 5G breakthrough, but T-Mobile is still ahead

Verizon moves one step closer to a major 5G breakthrough, but T-Mobile is still ahead
If there's one thing you should know about America's fledgling, incredibly competitive, and very messy 5G wireless industry, it's that the nation's top mobile network operators have adopted wildly different rollout strategies so far, resulting in massive speed and coverage gaps.

As you may already know, there are three different 5G flavors, and T-Mobile is the only carrier with a clear plan (and enough technical resources) to combine low, mid, and high-band spectrum in the near future. But when it comes to deployment methods, these three 5G technologies can actually be filed in the same category.

Because they still use an underlying 4G LTE network for certain functions, they're all considered part of the "non-standalone" 5G group. That's the reason why Dish, for instance, is touting its upcoming 5G mobile service as superior to what Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are offering, rising to the "standalone" rank as the satellite market veteran does not (and will not) operate its own 4G LTE network.

What is standalone 5G and why is it such a big deal?

Obviously, the "big three" carriers will not sit idly by as the industry rookie comes in to break new ground and change the game. Verizon, for one, is announcing its very own 5G standalone core trial ahead of "full commercialization in 2021."

In a nutshell, the leap to standalone 5G services will provide major benefits for both consumers and carriers in the form of network latency reductions, further speed upgrades, and lower maintenance costs. The problem, as you can imagine, is that the innovative technology is not yet ready for primetime, which is why Big Red aims to "start moving traffic on the new core in the second half of 2020" following the completion of its first successful "end-to-end data session" over said "new 5G network standalone core."

Basically, this will be built using next-gen cellular technology from the ground up, with 5G cells leveraged for both signalling and information transfer, which is envisioned as offering smartphones "nearly infinite opportunities to use data."

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Curiously enough, Verizon is still staying mum on the topic of core vendors it's currently collaborating with to make the ambitious aforementioned schedule possible. In contrast, T-Mobile has already revealed it's working closely together with Cisco and Nokia (among others) to launch its standalone 5G service as early as "later this year."

T-Mobile is rapidly becoming the 5G provider to beat

That once again proves the "Un-carrier" is constantly (at least) one step ahead of Big Red when it comes to 5G development and deployment plans, although Verizon could still beat its arch-rival to the punch with a Dynamic Spectrum Sharing rollout by the end of 2020.

DSS is another groundbreaking technology sitting somewhere between the non-standalone and standalone 5G deployment modes in terms of complexity, as it theoretically allows carriers to make better use of existing assets by, well, dynamically sharing spectrum between 4G LTE and 5G networks.


On paper, that could help Verizon catch up with T-Mobile's nationwide low-band 5G signal as far as availability goes, but in reality, Magenta's top officials claim the technology is far from polished and may still need more than a year before it can be commercially released.

Meanwhile, AT&T is keeping things even vaguer than Verizon in terms of standalone 5G development, telling the folks over at Light Reading it is not currently able to "release the name of vendors" it will be using for its "standalone core." For what it's worth, said core is being developed and tested right now, and AT&T plans to "continue investing" in its network "infrastructure to build out" its 5G services... whatever that might mean.

Last but not necessarily least, there's pretty much nothing new to report on the Dish 5G rollout front, as Sprint's replacement still aims for a "core launch" of its own in "at least one market" sometime later this year.

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