Mobile networks need plenty of spectrum to work and so far, 5G just hasn’t had much available. At least, not as much as LTE currently has. While T-Mobile and AT&T have been able to deploy coverage on dedicated low-band spectrum, speeds haven’t exactly been impressive compared to the more mature LTE networks. Still, according to T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray this approach allows T-Mobile to build a 5G network without disrupting speeds on LTE while delivering great speed and coverage.
Verizon on the other hand is using DSS for all of its nationwide 5G network. This is separate from the Ultra Wideband network Verizon has deployed in several cities. Performance on the Ultra Wideband network is very fast with optimal speeds over 1Gbps which is closer to fast Wi-Fi than LTE. Like Wi-Fi though, Ultra Wideband has extremely limited coverage. Verizon’s DSS network sharea its large pool of LTE spectrum with 5G devices and, as T-Mobile points out, has led to Verizon’s 5G speeds taking a nosedive to become the lowest median 5G speeds in the country.
If you’re not familiar with T-Mobile’s 5G network there are a few reasons why it’s so confident. T-Mobile started building its network on 600MHz spectrum dedicated to 5G. Following T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint this spring, T-Mobile has also been able to deploy 5G on the 2.5GHz spectrum it got from Sprint’s network. This higher-frequency spectrum is great for speed but doesn’t offer as much coverage. T-Mobile will also eventually expand its mmWave network in dense urban areas.
T-Mobile is referring to its three-tiered 5G network as a ‘layer cake’ and expects this network to be able to offer coverage in rural areas with more capacity in suburban and urban areas. This network is currently the best way for people to test out a new 5G phone.