With 2020 winding down, many folks are looking ahead to 2021 and what the next year might bring. And that includes Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s president of technology.
Speaking today during the Oppenheimer 5G Summit, Ray talked a bit about some of his plans for the T-Mobile 5G network in 2021. He explained that there are a bunch of basic features and capabilities that T-Mo had with 4G LTE that it doesn’t yet have with 5G in the network or in phones, and so T-Mobile is working to change that next year.
One of those things is carrier aggregation. Ray teased that T-Mobile is planning to have carrier aggregation with low-band and mid-band 5G and that we could start to see phones launch with 5G carrier aggregation support as soon as the first quarter of 2021. However, he added that the rollout of that feature in phones is going to be “a little staggered” and that he “can never predict what will happen with one of the OEMs.”
Another feature T-Mobile is hoping to deploy in 2021 is voice over 5G. Known as VoNR, or “Voice over 5G New Radio”, Ray suggests that we could “start to see stuff in 2021” related to VoNR and that the rollout should be smoother than VoLTE’s. “VoLTE was pretty bumpy,” Ray said. He went on to hint that there may be more to talk about VoNR in early 2021.
Finally, Ray talked a bit about the network upgrades that T-Mobile is currently working on. He says that T-Mobile is working on 1,000 sites a week, performing upgrades, on air activity, and commissioning and that that includes work for 600MHz and 2.5GHz 5G as well as “some of the other projects we’re working on.”
Ray reiterated T-Mobile’s plan to have 100 million people covered with 2.5GHz 5G and said that T-Mo is “going to come super close, if not fly past it.” Then T-Mobile’s goal is to cover 200 million people with 2.5GHz mid-band 5G by the end of 2021. He added that customers are currently seeing average speeds of 300Mbps on 2.5GHz and that that number will move closer to 400Mbps as we exit 2020 and T-Mo is adding more spectrum to its network.