T-Mobile has started the rollout of its new 5G tech that can deliver speeds of up to 3.3Gbps using carrier aggregation, which combines four different 5G channels into one for devices that can handle it (only Samsung’s newer Galaxy S23 phones at the moment), similar to a trick used by Wi-Fi routers to create a faster connection.
That’s even faster than what you’d get out of mmWave 5G, which is more heavily touted by Verizon and AT&T as also being capable of extremely high speeds — Ookla recently reported download speeds of up to 1.6Gbps in the US. However, it has limited range and device support and is easily hampered by common impediments like trees and buildings.
The four channels T-Mobile is using include repurposed 1,900MHz spectrum from T-Mobile’s and Sprint’s previously mothballed 3G networks, along with two 2.5GHz channels (or carriers) and 600MHz. The rollout is already live in parts of T-Mobile’s network and “will be available nationwide in the coming weeks,” per the company’s release, although you’ll have to guess exactly where that is since T-Mobile isn’t saying.
Senior communications manager Justin Paulsen told The Verge in an email that no specific plan is required to take advantage of the aggregated channels, and there are no limitations on connection speed. However, not everyone will be able to use the faster connection yet — you’ll need a Samsung Galaxy S23, which has the same Qualcomm Snapdragon X70 modem found in the OnePlus 11 5G.
AT&T and T-Mobile are working on similar upgrades, as AT&T reported earlier this year it had aggregated two upload channels, while Verizon reports seeing upload speeds of over a gigabit and downloads at up to 4.3Gbps in its testing. But it seems T-Mobile has gotten to real-world use first, at least among the major US carriers. Last year, it announced it had hit the 3Gbps throughput mark with this technique on a live, standalone 5G network, which no other cell service provider had done yet.
Ulf Ewaldsson, president of technology at T-Mobile, says that, as the only company with a standalone 5G network, “T-Mobile is the only provider bringing game-changing technologies like four-carrier aggregation” to the market.