T-Mobile has the perfect millimeter-wave 5G coverage we’ve seen yet.
Because of a dense community of cell websites throughout Manhattan, the UnCarrier can provide 5G speeds that common around double its 4G speeds in a lot of the borough, with steady coverage that beats what we’ve seen from Verizon in Chicago or AT&T in Dallas.
The corporate lately launched 5G in six cities, with the primary official millimeter-wave 5G coverage maps we’ve seen.
That doesn’t mean you need to rush out to buy a T-Mobile 5G telephone. The company’s 5G technique leans heavily on two pillars that haven’t been constructed yet: its low-band “nationwide” 5G network, and its potential merger with Sprint. Neither form of network is supported by its first 5G telephone, the $1,299.99 Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, which only supports a form of millimeter-wave 5G that T-Mobile could have in about 10 cities.
The limited ambitions for T-Mobile millimeter-wave are in all probability additionally why T-Mobile isn’t touching its service plans; 5G simply operates, for now, on present unlimited 4G plans, with present deprioritization limits and present hotspot allotments.
T-Mobile’s challenge is that Qualcomm’s first-generation 5G modem, the X50, doesn’t help its three-pronged 5G strategy. That may change in the direction of the top of the yr, when the first phones with Qualcomm’s more versatile X55 modem seem. I anticipate the primary one will be the Samsung Galaxy Word 10.
A Need for Spectrum, for Velocity
Over a four-hour interval, I ran 30 exams on T-Mobile’s 5G community and one other 57 on its 4G community. Speeds on T-Mobile’s 5G network peaked at 502Mbps, and I noticed numerous 200-350Mbps outcomes. That falls far in need of the gigabit-plus results I’ve seen on AT&T and Verizon; it’s far more like the mid-band speeds I saw in Dallas with Dash.
That is sensible if you keep in mind that T-Mobile only has 100MHz of millimeter-wave spectrum in New York. Millimeter-wave isn’t magic; the rationale some individuals speak about it as whether it is, is because big spectrum bandwidths are typically out there. AT&T and Verizon have 400MHz-800MHz of millimeter-wave in many cities. T-Mobile only has that type of depth in Ohio. But 100MHz of millimeter-wave has speeds like 100MHz of pretty much anything, together with Sprint’s 120MHz of mid-band.
In terms of actual shopper experience, probably the most impressive thing I saw here was truly the ground. Carriers hate to talk about floors, but shoppers complain about flooring far more than they complain about peaks. Shoppers don’t want 960Mbps sometimes. They want 10Mbps in all places, and the 5G increase actually helps T-Mobile right here.
(In checks right now we’re not speaking about uploads or latency, as a result of they’re nonetheless operating on 4G. We’re going to see 5G uploads soon, however not at present.)
That obtained me to fascinated with some uses for relatively slim bandwidths of 5G. T-Mobile is principally using it right here as a capacity enhancement; it’s giving us the speeds we had hoped to anticipate from 4G, where 4G is overcrowded. (In our Fastest Cellular Networks exams this yr, it seemed like T-Mobile was battling somewhat bit of community saturation after years of quick progress.)
Even with comparatively slim bandwidths, the extraordinarily low latency of 5G might create some transformative purposes in the future. I’m enthusiastic about how OnePlus’s CEO Pete Lau advised me about leaning extra on streaming knowledge relatively than local storage. In a whole lot of instances, you don’t want more than 50Mbps for that, but you need a dependable 50Mbps. It’ll in all probability be another two years earlier than we see these purposes, although, as a result of the present “non-standalone” 5G gear leans on 4G LTE to arrange its connections, and so it shows 4G LTE latencies.
Density Is Future
On the Decrease East Aspect of Manhattan, I was capable of walk more than a mile without persistently dropping millimeter-wave 5G sign. That’s a very massive deal. Once I’ve tested Verizon’s network in Chicago, it has been disconnected little two-block bubbles with huge gaps between them.
However whoo, look at the map of that walk. If I consider CellMapper.internet, it took seven T-Mobile cell sites to cover my mile. Seeing the place I acquired the relatively few dropouts on this walk, I’m estimating that each website had a few 600-foot radius, just like what I noticed with Verizon in Chicago.
Examine that to Sprint in Dallas, which was capable of cowl an 0.6-mile radius with one mid-band cell website.
This simply shows that any service that desires to do citywide millimeter-wave coverage right now’s going to have to make use of a heck of numerous little cell websites.
How is T-Mobile pulling this off in New York when an enormous like Verizon can’t do it in Chicago?
Means back within the prehistory of wi-fi, there was a company referred to as Omnipoint. Omnipoint had a teensy, weensy 10MHz of spectrum throughout New York Metropolis for GSM telephones. GSM is inefficient and that spectrum would have gotten crammed up in a short time, so Omnipoint arrange a community of relatively small, dense cells across New York to reuse the spectrum every few blocks. In 1999, Omnipoint merged with Voicestream to turn out to be T-Mobile, and importantly, T-Mobile didn’t surrender all of these little cell websites. It’s had all of them for 20 years.
The Omnipoint cell sites additionally are typically on lower buildings than many different 4G websites, making them good for millimeter-wave. Millimeter-wave’s brief range means it can’t be broadcast from too excessive up, or it’s going to have comparatively little coverage on the ground.
T-Mobile 5G Cell Website.
In Chicago, however, Verizon wanted to make a cope with the town to set up new sites on mild poles. It’s loads of new constructing. That’s what we’re seeing with most millimeter-wave setups, in most places.
There’s a scorching dialog within the 5G world right now around the need for extra mid-band spectrum, which has more attain and higher indoor penetration. Proper now, the army and a gaggle of private overseas satellite corporations referred to as the C-Band Alliance are sitting on plenty of the spectrum within the 3-7GHz range, which is what a lot of the rest of the world is utilizing initially for 5G.
With its gigantic obtainable bandwidths (800MHz or more, after a number of extra auctions), millimeter-wave is certainly going to play a task in delivering multi-gigabit connections to locations like sports stadiums, campuses, and even houses. (It’s difficult, however the geometry of a fixed-wireless house web answer is totally different from plenty of little telephones skittering around on the road.)
However for citywide coverage, it’s wanting like we’re going to wish either more mid-band, or a heck of much more cell websites. That is part of T-Mobile’s argument to merge with Sprint, in fact: the mixed company would have millimeter-wave, mid-band, and low-band spectrum.
Indoors coverage has been one among millimeter-wave’s challenges. In the longer term, that’ll be handled a bunch of different methods. I feel a variety of businesses shall be fitted with millimeter-wave CPEs (shopper premise gear), which translate outdoor mmWave sign to free Wi-Fi indoors. But these CPEs gained’t exist till later this yr, a minimum of.
Once I’ve examined Verizon’s millimeter-wave in Chicago and AT&T’s in Dallas, I’ve seen 65-70 % sign loss. However that was a number of revisions of base station software ago. As base station software advances, so does beamforming, a key functionality that may enhance indoor reach.
So I attempted indoor/outside checks at a financial institution, a espresso shop, and a bagel shop with T-Mobile in Manhattan, and obtained … very inconsistent results
At the bank, 444Mbps of outside coverage turned 325Mbps indoors—a 27 % loss, which isn’t dangerous at all. At the espresso store, 279Mbps turned 141Mbps, a 49 % loss. But at the bagel store, 502Mbps turned 71.3Mbps, an 86 % loss.
These results are, unfortunately, too inconsistent from which to attract any good conclusions. Nevertheless it seems to be like the millimeter-wave base stations are enhancing when it comes to indoor reach. We’ll examine once more with Verizon in Windfall, Rhode Island, this week.
5G: Too Scorching to Deal with?
We encountered one other troubling drawback with the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G once we have been out testing.
It’s really scorching in New York proper now. The day we have been testing, it was 90 degrees, sunny, and humid—much hotter than any of the previous days we examined 5G in Chicago or Dallas. Cranking the 5G modem operating velocity checks each two minutes, the telephone often appeared to overheat and drop again to 4G in 5G areas. I feel that the overheating explains numerous the purple areas in my stroll around midtown Manhattan, along streets the place I ought to have gotten consistent 5G coverage:
While this may increasingly have been a tower challenge, I feel it was the telephone. For one thing, if I rebooted the telephone and let it settle down for 5 minutes in a bank lobby, the 5G got here back. For an additional, I duplicated the issue on a second gadget.
For now we can’t inform if this can be a drawback with the Galaxy S10 5G, with the Qualcomm X50 modem, or with millimeter-wave know-how typically proper now. Figuring that out would require us testing with a number of Samsung and LG phones in a city that has each a millimeter-wave service and Sprint (which doesn’t use mmWave), and we don’t have that setup obtainable to us but.
But when I’m going to make a guess, I feel it’s a mixture of the X50 and mmWave. The X50 is a relatively giant, first-generation, discrete element related to four mmWave antenna modules and crammed into a case that isn’t much greater than the non-5G Galaxy S10+ telephone. I feel it’s pushing the thermal envelope right here.
When the telephone “drops back to 4G,” meaning it’s turning the X50 off and utilizing the X24 modem integrated into its Snapdragon 855 chipset. That X24 will pump knowledge all day in 90-degree temps with out stressing out.
We’ll be doing extra testing this and subsequent week on multiple totally different millimeter-wave networks, however this simply emphasizes how bleeding-edge all these X50-based telephones are. If anyone remembers the HTC Thunderbolt, the first major 4G LTE telephone with its two and a half hours of battery life … it’s somewhat like that have.
I don’t know if the anticipated Galaxy Word 10, which I consider will use a Snapdragon 855 with a discrete second-generation X55 modem, might be higher on this rely. We might have to attend for subsequent yr’s phones, which can integrate a 5G modem into the Snapdragon 865.
I don’t need you to take what I’m saying too critically here; this is all hypothesis based mostly on inadequate amounts of testing! However it’s value maintaining a tally of, and we’ll.
This text originally revealed at PCMag