T-Mobile rolled out its low-frequency 5G network recently, and the speeds that users are reporting are nowhere near as fast as promised. Many users are noting that the connection speeds they get from 5G networks are close to or equal to 4G speeds. However, the delineator “low-frequency” is the primary reason. To generate the massive speeds that 5G is supposed to have, it requires a lot of bandwidth. At lower frequencies, like the ones utilized by T-Mobile in this case, there isn’t enough bandwidth for communication.
Why Even have 5G at These Speeds?
If carriers advertised blazing-fast speeds that aren’t available at lower bandwidths, then why even use the lower frequencies? At current, 5G technology is non-standalone. It requires the framework of a 4G network to be able to function. As time progresses, these networks will eventually become standalone, most likely by the end of next year. However, for a telecommunications provider to advertise (and provide) 5G service is a feather in T-Mobile’s cap, even though it doesn’t function like the 5G that consumers were expecting.
The Layer-Cake of 5G
Understanding why speeds are hobbled so much for the short term requires understanding how the 5G system works. Low-band communication (where the networks are currently sitting) will not be able to provide the speeds that 5G is rumored to have. Mid-band and millimeter-wave spectrums can potentially provide those speeds, but only with the existing low-band 5G framework. AT&T and US Cellular are both aiming to roll out their own low-frequency 5G networks in February of 2020 in preparation for expanding into the mid-band spectrum. AT&T is more interested in exploiting millimeter-wave transmissions to push their network speeds, but low-frequency 5G networks don’t support this speed of communication just yet. Consumers may have to wait a little longer to attain the speeds that they had been advertised.