New report details how Sprint’s 2.5GHz spectrum is improving T-Mobile 5G

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We already know that the 2.5GHz spectrum that T-Mobile gained as part of its merger with Sprint is having a positive effect on T-Mo’s 5G network, because we saw last week that some speed tests in New York City were breaking the 1Gbps barrier. But today a new report has come out that sheds a bit more light on the impact Sprint’s 2.5GHz airwaves are having.

In Philadelphia, Ookla Speedtest’s Milan Milanovic found that 5G download speeds basically doubled from the start of April to the end, going from 60.40Mbps to 119.82Mbps. Philadelphia was the first city to get 2.5GHz 5G from T-Mobile, with coverage going live on April 21. Before then, the city only had 600MHz-based 5G.

Peak 5G speeds in Philadelphia grew in April, too, surpassing 700Mbps, while average latency dropped from 30ms to 21ms.

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The average download speeds of T-Mobile’s 5G network in New York City have grown, going from around 79Mbps in April to 98.96Mbps as of May 15. T-Mobile turned on 2.5GHz 5G in NYC on May 5, making it the first city to have T-Mobile’s full 5G “layer cake” with low-band (600MHz), mid-band (2.5GHz), and high-band (mmWave) 5G.

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Today’s report also shows that T-Mobile is being more efficient with the 2.5GHz airwaves than Sprint. When Sprint launched its 2.5GHz 5G in New York City in August 2019, it was using 40MHz of bandwidth and producing speeds of 367Mbps. Meanwhile, T-Mobile is using the same amount of spectrum and getting speeds of 541Mbps, an improvement of 47 percent.

What’s more, T-Mobile boosted speeds to nearly 900Mbps by increasing the bandwidth on some sites in NYC on May 19, going from 40MHz to 60MHz.

Milanovic attributes the lower efficiency on the Sprint 2.5GHz network to a lower distribution of 256 QAM and MIMO. Sprint’s speeds could’ve also been affected by the radios running in split mode for both 5G n41 and LTE band 41, while T-Mobile’s radios are only using 5G n41 on 2.5GHz since T-Mobile’s mid-band anchor bands are LTE bands 2 and 66.

Today’s report also touches a bit on T-Mobile’s millimeter wave network, something T-Mo itself hasn’t said much about since launching it in parts of 6 cities last year. New York City is one of those 6 cities, and today’s report says that T-Mo’s mmWave coverage in Manhattan is “one of the most impressive” when it comes to cell density.

Using 100MHz of spectrum, T-Mo’s mmWave put out download speeds of more than 520Mbps. But T-Mobile can get similar speeds with just 40MHz of mid-band 2.5GHz thanks to 256 QAM and 4×4 MIMO, two features that the existing mmWave chips can’t offer.

T-Mobile hasn’t said much about its plans for mmWave, including when or where it’ll deploy more. But it does have 1,160MHz of mmWave spectrum nationwide after winning some airwaves in FCC auctions, and considering how much T-Mo talks about its “layer cake” 5G strategy, it’s likely that we’ll see T-Mobile do more with mmWave at some point in the future.

Until then, you can check out the full report on T-Mobile’s 5G network at the link below.

Source: Speedtest

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  • InTheMuff

    I have a note 9 on tmo network

    Can anyone answer if the newly acquired spectrum will improve my coverage, or do I need a newer phone.
    Granted this phone isnt old but you know what I’m saying, do I need a phone that was just released

    • emcdonald75

      You will need a newer phone labeled as a 5G phone, such as the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G, OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren, Galaxy Note 20 Series (smaller S20 only supports 600MHz and 2.5GHz 5G, and not mmWave), OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro, and LG V60 ThinQ 5G.

      • Toasted_Cracker

        True, but I would think that if it moves people with 5G phones over to different spectrum’s then you could still see increased speeds due to a less congested network.

        • emcdonald75

          I was speaking to the required hardware to access the 5G spectrum. If the person chooses to only want access to additional LTE spectrum, then he/she will still need a newer phone to access additional LTE bands, which many 5G phones also carry. Are 5G phones necessary now? No. I have the iPhone 11 but I am defintely upgrading to the 5G iPhone once it becomes available.

      • InTheMuff

        Thanks 4 for the reply.
        It’s my fault I shouldve been more specific.
        I’m not referring to 5g. I know my phone doesnt have that capability.

        Isnt this new spectrum going to improve LTE as well?
        That’s my question, will my LTE get better

        • emcdonald75

          Like Toasted_Cracker explained, theoretically, data speeds should improve as users are transitioned over to the 5G network. It is imperative for T-Mobile to hurry and shut down their 3G network and reuse that spectrum for LTE/5G with the use of DSS (dynamic spectrum sharing) technology. This technology will also help your LTE data speeds improve.

        • InTheMuff

          Gotcha…..
          What u said leads me to another question.
          3g is what tmobile transfers ppl over to when they hit their limit, if 3g is gone, what then? I know my hotspot gets throttled after 7 or 10 gigs and drops to 3g.
          When 3g is gone and you hit your caps, will we have to pay for data after then?

          Even if you dont have an answer, it’s just something that crossed my mind

        • emcdonald75

          I do not think the technology (LTE, 5G) changes, but the data speeds are throttled. So if you hit your data limit or if there is congestion, T-Mobile deprioritizes your data session. This method reduces your data speeds or drops your call in favor of a customer that has not reached their priority data limit. Also, cell towers switch data sessions based on priority or use a first come, first serve method based on how T-Mobile designs its system. The goal is to no longer have a 3G (HSPA or CDMA (Verizon)) system at all, just two base technologies (LTE & 5G NR), and with DSS, the spectrum can be shared among the two technologies (on the fly) and make spectrum refarming obsolete. This is why VoLTE, VoNR and DSS are important technologies. That’s my opinion. Maybe others can offer a better explanation.

        • Shaun Michalak

          I doubt that they will drop your call.. Just data will be effected.. I am on their Metro end, and I have never had a dropped call for that reason, even when i could not get a data connection.. From what I have seen, the prioritize the phone calls before anything else, and all the prioritizing is on everything after that..

        • shawn murray

          it you have the plus plan gies you 20 gigs at LTE or 5g. then you go down to 3g and i think once 3g is converted to more lte or 5g then hotspot will stay at LTE.

        • Shaun Michalak

          Well, since 3G is going to be converted to 4G for use, then it should make 4G’s limit even higher so you do not need to be transferred to 3G.. But this will make no difference in most of T-Mobiles coverage area.. Any new towers that they have built in the last 5 or so years, does not have any 3G coverage on it, and that is something like 90% of their current coverage.. I used to have a 3G phone, and had to switch to a 4G phone in my area for this exact reason..

          I am sure that the speeds will just drop, but you will still be on a 4G connection. Everything else, like you plan, price, etc should still all stay the same as what you are on now, unless you change plans.

    • Shaun Michalak

      IN simple terms, the answer is no.. Because coverage is area.. You will not get any more service area from using band 41.. You will if you do not have band 71 though.. What 5G and band 41 is going to do is more along the lines of increase speeds, and nothing more.. Just upgrading to 5G, if you already have a phone that supports band 71, that is all that will happen..

      With band 41, T-Mobile is only deploying it in 5G.. Not only that, but a lot of Sprints towers that have service, are not upgraded to 4G VOLTE or better, so a lot of them you probably will not even be able to access because of it..

  • Glenn Gore

    2.5 GHz has real promise for 5G and this report bears that out, although the same data speeds could theoretically be achieved using currently existing LTE across the country, but no carrier has ever come anywhere close to offering that type of data rate using LTE, with just a few exceptions. The carriers are notorious for never provisioning any “G” version of their tech to its fullest capability before moving on to the next “G”, and that is what has brought us to the situation across the country with the hodge-podge of 1x, 2G, 3G, “4G”/HSPA, and LTE.

    I will bet the same situation will occur with 5G. Some parts of the country will never see anything more than low-band 5G, some places will get the 2.5 GHz version, and the most dense urban areas will get outdoor-only millimeter-wave. Some will claim this is OK, that lesser places need lesser capacity, and there is some merit to that. But, with the carriers blaring advertising claims of self-driving cars, tele-medicine, etc etc, a good bit of those services just will not work unless the higher forms of 5G are in place. How is one supposed to utilize a self-driving car on a rural US highway between Oklahoma City and Denver for example, where there is only 24 Mbps Band 71 5G along the route? (24 Mbps is the top-end data rate I have observed recently along some portions of that route) These are early days, so I hope T-Mobile gets extremely aggressive with their 5G roll-out.

    • Shaun Michalak

      But you said it right there.. Rural.. that means lots of trees, and towers farther away.. 2.5ghz is not good for penetration or distance in places like that.. So while they cold deploy it, only a limited number of people will be able to access it, if any at all.. It all depends on where the towers are at.. If they are miles away, in the middle of a forest, I do not see band 41 helping much, if at all.. If it is near a town, then yes, I can see it helping.

      • Glenn Gore

        Mid-band spectrum is more capable in rural settings than I would have expected it to be before experiencing it in actual use. Bands 2, 4, 30, and 66 are all close to 2.5 GHz in range capability and are being used by AT&T around here to serve small towns and rural areas, and in some places where they don’t own low-band, it’s the only spectrum they have deployed. When AT&T launched those sites that only use that spectrum, I figured it would have horrible range but they are able to make it work 10-12 miles out from the site just fine, so I think this bodes well for T-Mobile’s use of Sprint’s 2.5 GHz.

        T-Mobile has a penchant for placing sites halfway between two towns to serve “two for the price of one”, so to speak. It is a cost-efficient way to serve lesser-populated areas. They do that a lot around here. The downside to this scheme is that this can produce a situation where very few people live in the “Excellent” signal footprint of a site and population centers being in the “Fair” footprint. There are rural households who would like to have broadband that could very easily be served from those rural-centered sites and T-Mobile has expressed a desire to service those types of customers. The addition of 2.5 GHz to these sites might help the situation for the towns on the fringe and hopefully with the new radios T-Mobile has everywhere it’s just a software change to enable it.

        • Shaun Michalak

          I think a lot of it also has to do with the power they use, and the angle of the antenna too.. For example, at my house, I am connecting to Sprint’s band 25, which is 1900mhz.. I get something like 4 bars out on the street, 2 bars just inside my house, and nothing in the middle of the house.. Yet, on T-Mobiles band 2, I get 4 to 5 bars no matter where I am in the house.. and the thing is, I would say that the antennas are only about a hundred or so feet from each other.. Basically, they are on top of the building right next door to each other.. Both are 1900mhz too, so why is there soo much of a difference in coverage?

          At the same time, I have been places that had band 2 coverage, which was miles away from a tower, and not direct line of sight because of trees and stuff, got 2 bars at best, and lost coverage in areas, and after they added in band 71 coverage, in the places that had 2 bars, I went up to 4 to 5 bars.. Places that had no coverage, had a couple of bars.. It all just depends on how many trees and stuff are in the way, as to how good the signal will be.

        • Glenn Gore

          I know, it amazes me how they can get those frequencies to work so well when they shouldn’t, they are almost always used only in urban situations for short-range cases, never for a rural application. I remember reading online articles where the author had experienced the same thing.

          There are places where T-Mobile has LTE sites with just Bands 2 and 71, and for some reason my phone will prefer Band 2 until it just about fades out before switching to 71, if it ever does. Maybe they are preferring that band because of its higher capacity, I don’t really know. I don’t think those sites are using carrier aggregation but I don’t know that either.

        • Shaun Michalak

          That is just it.. The higher frequencies and bandwidth.. But not only that, but total coverage too.. If they bogged down band 71 close to the tower, then in the places farther away, that only band 71 will cover, will get nothing but problems.. Better to stick with the higher bandwidth frequencies as long as you can, and then switch to the low bands farther out, when they are more needed, and that is the only option.. Also, I think more people would get mad if there is a 30 meg downloadable band 2 there, and they are stuck on a max of 10 meg downloadable band 71.. Not exact numbers, but you get the idea..

        • Glenn Gore

          Yes, you’re right. We were sitting on the porch yesterday evening, and after watching my phone switch from Band 2 to 71 and back o occasion, I decided to run some Speedtests. The site that serves our town is 6 miles away, halfway to the next town, it serves both. Normal Band 2 signal is -115 to -120, sometimes getting as low as -125. On Band 71 it is normally in the -100 to -110 range. My phone stays on Band 2 80% of the time, but yesterday it was sticking with 71 and showing 50% signal level. But every time I clicked the “GO” button on the Speedtest app, it would immediately switch to Band 2 for the test. Every single time. Most times the result is between 60-80 Mbps, not bad at all from 6 miles away, it is a well-provisioned site and you can get 180 Mbps out there within a mile of it. That 60-80 drops to 30-40 indoors on Band 2 of course, but that’s still plenty for anything I would want to do on my phone in the house. It’s really hard to get a good read on the Band 71 capability since the phone doesn’t want to use it for anything as long as the Band 2 is receivable. The only time I can get good readings on 71 is to drive out west towards the panhandle where there are some new T-Mobile sites that only have Band 71. Again, T-Mobile is getting VERY good mileage out of that Band 2 and the Band 71 seems to be used only for range. And that’s fine.

        • Shaun Michalak

          I would say band 71 is a mix.. of both range, and low data use.. For example, if you are only making a phone call, you do not need a lot of data, and it might stay on band 71 for a phone call.. but as soon as you exert your need for data it switches to what ever band is best for data.. Yet, connecting to band 71 for low data use, frees up some of the band 2 for data users..

          I wish I had connections like you get.. I live in the middle of the city, and right next to a hospital, and high rise apartments.. Most of the time I get around 3mb down.. Just now, at 11:30am, I got speeds of 5.4mb down.. There is too much congestion in my area to get really good speeds.. and that is on band 2 with a -88dBm signal.. Thing is, I go more toward the edge of the city, on a different tower, and not anywhere near hospitals or high rise apartments, and I usually get over 30mb down.. but that does not help with where I live.. lol

        • Glenn Gore

          Trust me, I do feel your pain. We only got LTE a couple years ago, when T-Mobile started the Band 71 rollout. Prior to that it was just 2G/EDGE on Band 2, they never had 3G or “4G”. I just could not use them as a carrier, but now they are a great option. AT&T is nipping on their heels with carrier aggregation and LTE+. I have no clue what Pioneer/Verizon is going to do, I don’t see millimeter-wave ever being used here, so no telling what their 5G plans are, if they even have any. And by that point, T-Mobile should be much farther along with 5G. I have the most faith in T-Mobile in being quite aggressive in fully utilizing the spectrum they own, they have a great track record on it.

        • Shaun Michalak

          I was not much better a couple years ago.. As they took over MetroPCS, and there started to be MetroPCS stores in the area, with their lower prices, people started going to them, and with that, data started getting worse and worse, to the point that a couple years ago, i was lucky to do a speed test most of the time.. Then, they came through and did band 71 upgrades, and things got better.. I would say at that time, I was getting an average of about 10mb down for quit a while.. But then, things started going down again, to what it is now, where most of the time I get about 3mb down.. Since I do not live on the phone, it does not bother me though. Still, when you think about it, not being able to do a speed test is not much different then 2G service that you were getting.

          I am glad you got service that is decent, that you can use, and like.. You said AT&T was nipping at the heals, but that has to depend on what kind of a signal you get.. With AT&T and Verizon, both of them have no interest in doing anything but taking down 2 and 3G service, and applying it to 4G or better.. Nothing more.. There are places around here that one of the other of them have either no coverage, or really bad coverage, and neither one of them do anything to fix it.. So what you see in coverage, is what you get with them, and do not expect that to change.

          That is one thing I can give to T-Mobile.. They know their coverage is not perfect, and they are slowly doing something to fix that problem.. I think it is going to be interesting to see what their coverage is going to be like in a few years, after they have all of the Sprint towers converted over to T-Mobile towers.. Plus any additional new towers that they put up too.. I think by that point in time, they really are going to have a really good network that either rivals, or beats even Verizons total network coverage.

        • Glenn Gore

          A year ago, all AT&T had here was 2G/EDGE, then they upgraded straight to LTE when the 2G shutdown occurred. I fully believe that if they were not shutting down that entire 2G network we would still be sitting here with only 2G from them. The site here in town puts out a good solid LTE+ with 80 Mbps using Bands 4,5, and 66.

          I would still not use AT&T though as they have no service in the New Mexico ski town of Red River near Taos where we have a house and in normal times, go several times a year. AT&T is horrific in northern New Mexico, relying on pretty much non-existent or non-functional CommNet roaming. T-Mobile on the other hand has 5G in Red River now! No contest! As for 5G from AT&T, they have said nothing, although they have fired up a couple of small-town low-band sites around the state recently.

          As to Verizon, obviously we are dependent on what Pioneer Cellular, their LTE in Rural America partner, does. They put out an excellent LTE product and they cover every square inch of their territory with it. Pioneer has not announced any plans for 5G yet.

        • Shaun Michalak

          AT&T is playing a lot of “catch up” on their towers right now.. They have a lot of places that only have 3G at best, in coverage, and since they pretty much want to shut down everything pre 4G by next year.. or the end of this year, they are not scrambling to upgrade all those towers with no 4G service on them, to put 4G or better on them so that they have coverage.. They have quit a few of those towers here, in my state..

          If the comparison map is even half true that T-Mobile has up, it looks like everything above, and to the west of New Mexico, T-Mobile is getting better coverage in, then AT&T.. I know, here in my state, there are quit a few places that T-Mobile has coverage, and AT&T has none.. Of course, it is the same the other way too.. But with me being on Metro, I can jump off of AT&T towers for talk and text.. With AT&T’s Cricket, the same is no true for their customers for T-Mobile towers..

          Just like with 4G LTE, I doubt that AT&T or Verizon will upgrade their towers to 5G tech on them, until all the bugs are worked out, and T-Mobile has things figured out.. They did the same thing with 4G LTE and waited for MetroPCS to work things out, and then just used the technology after it was all worked out by other people / companies..

      • ugp5

        2.5 works great in this rural location. Tower is greater than a mile away but has direct LOS.

        • Shaun Michalak

          It is as you said right there.. direct line of sight.. There really is not too much difference between any of the bands in coverage, if it is all line of sight.. The problem is when you start putting trees, buildings, and stuff in the way.. That is where it starts to make a big difference.

  • Jay Holm

    Considering it has been nearly 2 full months since the merger FINALLY closed, Philly, and NYC are really the only places that have 2.5ghz 5G. I hope that add 12-15 cities in the next 3 months.

  • InTheMuff

    Android police just ran an article about tmo’s midband spectrum.
    They say verizon and at&t is screwed since they dont have it, and the earliest they can get some is at the end of the year

  • Mike

    Yes we all will have to play the game of getting a new phone to cover all the hype of 5g. Carriers love to make us get new devices. $$$
    Adding bands ain’t the cure for adding speed, it’s the bandwidth that will get the speeds up. The best thing will be when Sprint towers are added that may be in between T Mobile towers, if that happens then more bandwidth will happen, on the other hand it’s possible they could eliminate as many towers as possible to keep costs down and just keep enough towers to get by. Dish network may actually need the left over tower sites.

  • Brian

    I wouldn’t go out and buy a new phone just to get 5g unless you are using it for a hotspot. If you are just using your phone then you really won’t see any difference. I’ve got the One+ 8 and it’s a great phone but I bought it because my 3 year old phone was having issues. Of course if you need a new phone then you might as well get 5G and I highly recommend the One+ 8.