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Thread: Understanding 5G Frequencies

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    Understanding 5G Frequencies

    Hi everyone,

    I recently swapped my sim from Sprint to T-Mo while retaining my old plan (TNX; T-Mo Network experience). While traveling to our vacation home, I found that T-Mo's LTE there fluctuates throughout the day from being very usable (early morning hours) to become barely usable throughout the day with sometimes speed dropping far below 1 Mbps. My wife's phone is still on Sprint's network without problems, and she does a lot of streaming (in other words, if she had problems with her connection, I would be the first to know. Good thing, I did not order a sim for her phone to perform the swap).


    My question: coverage map shows nationwide (I assume it is called like this) 5G. Does this frequency underly the same fluctuations depending on time of day, weather, moon phase, etc., or is it a more stable frequency? Another reason for speed drop could be capacity, but I doubt it in this small town.

    Or, if it also undergoes the same physical changes/influences throughout the day, is 5G per se more usable/faster/stable?

    My phone is not 5G, but I am due to upgrade soon, and 5G definitely is the future. I am looking at the iPhone 12, but would not necessarily upgrade right away if 5G wasn't superior than the current LTE in less than perfect conditions.

    I know it is a general question since I do not want to state my location, but have people in spotty LTE areas seen an improvement with 5G?

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    I don't think anyone could answer your question with any certainty. The only way to know for sure is to test the network where you're at with a 5G device. But in non-standalone 5G, it combines the 5G band with LTE as well. So if the LTE where you're at is not good, your 5G experience could be the same.

    So if you feel your performance got worse with TNX, I would switch back to the Sprint network and use that as long as performance continues to do well.

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    If LTE speed is dropping throughout the day, that's congestion; LTE doesn't suffer from cell breathing like CDMA and WCDMA (3G) systems did (there can be a form of breathing though, if a site is set to maximize throughput it can start giving distant phones very few resources in favor of nearer phones, maximizing site throughput but slower service for distant users). Given that, I'd assume 5G would fluctuate too with the same load, signal strength etc. In practice, Sprint and T-Mo's assets will be merged sooner or later, at which point Sprint or T-Mo SIM will be accessing the same network (sounds like Sprint is better there for now for sure though). I have seen people (in VZW forum, but still) report (deep in buildings and such) seeing better speeds on their weak 5G than they do on weak 4G in those same locations, in VZW's case using DSS so not due to 5G or 4G having more spectrum, it's the same slice of spectrum either way. So I do think if you have a weaker signal 5G will do better than 4G. 5G on T-Mo right now is split between 600mhz band (band 71) and 2.5ghz band 41 (inherited from Sprint); the band 71 will have maximum range, 2.5ghz less range but much more speed.

    To be honest, I can't say if 5G would be better for you compared to 4G right now, but T-Mo's plans are aggressive for moving spectrum from 4G to 5G service. If the 5G service is not faster now it probably will be in like 6 months, so I would not sweat getting a 5G device.

    edit: I think the general plan has been to deploy as wide an area as possible on band 71, the 5G speed may not be huge but it'll get as much coverage as possible, and (since it can do 5G+4G aggregation) at least not reduce speeds. Initial fast 5G via band 41 (in progress right now as they do whatever they're doing to get Sprint hardware off this spectrum and T-Mo hardware onto it.. keep in mind, they'll have this broadcasting as both T-Mo & Sprint when they do this, so the 2.5 being serviced by T-Mo hardware should not keep the Sprint SIM from still accessing it; they've got like 150mhz of it so there's plenty to keep a nice slice of 4G and tons of 5G), and then start some 5G on band 4 & 2 as the number of 4G devices decreases and 5G ones increase. (Plus 5G on whatever C band and stuff they get in these recent auctions.) If your Sprint SIM device is getting 2.5ghz service on Sprint, you'll probably get huge 5G speeds with a 5G device when T-Mo moves some of that spectrum over to 5G in your area.

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    Thanks a lot for all the answers. Currently, I got an iPhone Xs which presumably has got B71. Right now, at 8:30 AM I got 3-4 bars and I am streaming video without problems. Probably getting worse in a couple of hours. Yesterday, I walked a mile across town in the afternoon, and speed wasn't a problem; no congestion it seemed.

    It is not that I would regard the T-Mo network here a failure; far from it. But I wish I would have a more reliable/useful speed at other times of the day (it has also to do with working from here; being on video calls, etc.)

    And I am far below my limits; deprioritization shouldn't be the reason either.

    Regarding the iPhone 12 versus 13: does the 12 already have all the 5G antennas needed for all bands of T-Mo's current and near future 5G? Otherwise, I cannot think of a reason to wait for the 13. The ever better cameras and chip performance are not that all important to me. Battery life seems already good on the 12 despite being a first generation 5G model. What else speaks for the 13 or against the 12?

    Well, it seems the great Sprint offers via their leasing program have come to an end and we are just being fed T-Mo's boring promotions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prepaidforever View Post
    Thanks a lot for all the answers. Currently, I got an iPhone Xs which presumably has got B71. Right now, at 8:30 AM I got 3-4 bars and I am streaming video without problems. Probably getting worse in a couple of hours. Yesterday, I walked a mile across town in the afternoon, and speed wasn't a problem; no congestion it seemed.
    The XS should be fully compatible. If you bring up Field Test when things are bad, you can see what LTE band you're on. If you've got "full bars" and things are just unbearably slow, it might be congestion/backhaul issues to that site. The one near my work only was running B12 and got congested if you looked at it funny, which kept me from moving over. In the last 3 months, the tower has had extensive upgrades. Now, I'm able to get 5G (haven't checked n41 or n71) and can pull 250Mbps+ in the same location where I'd be lucky to get 1Mbps before. Although a little optimistic, this map may show you what kinds of frequencies are actually in use in your area, sadly 5G isn't broken down by type: https://maps.t-mobile.com/pcc.html?map=mvno-roamdcm-5 . In the case of my work environment, it was pretty accurate where 5G stopped and LTE-only began (upgraded vs. non-upgraded sites) and was updated when they lit up all the new stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Prepaidforever View Post
    Regarding the iPhone 12 versus 13: does the 12 already have all the 5G antennas needed for all bands of T-Mo's current and near future 5G? Otherwise, I cannot think of a reason to wait for the 13. The ever better cameras and chip performance are not that all important to me. Battery life seems already good on the 12 despite being a first generation 5G model. What else speaks for the 13 or against the 12?
    At least right now, T-Mobile's 5G plans are n71, n41, and mmWave (n260/n261, IIRC) and the 12 family supports that just fine. T-Mobile might add more spectrum with the upcoming C-band auctions, but those four frequencies are their well-marketed 5G plans for the foreseeable future. The 12 should be fine, especially if you don't want to/can't wait. On the other hand, it is still a bit of a Wild West, and the next models may add something as the second-generation 5G iPhones.

    Finally, I think you can force existing Sprint sites by going to Settings > Cellular > Network Selection > turning off Automatic and trying to see which one will connect. You may want to do this to see if that helps if you're in a spotty location until upgrades and changes get done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prepaidforever View Post
    Thanks a lot for all the answers. Currently, I got an iPhone Xs which presumably has got B71. Right now, at 8:30 AM I got 3-4 bars and I am streaming video without problems. Probably getting worse in a couple of hours. Yesterday, I walked a mile across town in the afternoon, and speed wasn't a problem; no congestion it seemed.

    It is not that I would regard the T-Mo network here a failure; far from it. But I wish I would have a more reliable/useful speed at other times of the day (it has also to do with working from here; being on video calls, etc.)

    And I am far below my limits; deprioritization shouldn't be the reason either.

    Regarding the iPhone 12 versus 13: does the 12 already have all the 5G antennas needed for all bands of T-Mo's current and near future 5G? Otherwise, I cannot think of a reason to wait for the 13. The ever better cameras and chip performance are not that all important to me. Battery life seems already good on the 12 despite being a first generation 5G model. What else speaks for the 13 or against the 12?

    Well, it seems the great Sprint offers via their leasing program have come to an end and we are just being fed T-Mo's boring promotions.
    Well... Sprint is nearing its end, so there are a few things to deal with.
    1. T-Mobile network upgrades - is T-Mobile actively fixing service in your area. Its also possible that there are more users in your area on T-Mobile than were on Sprint, , or T-Mobile never did a great job covering your area.

    2. 5G vs. 4G is a bit of a non-brainer, as 4G isn't being 'built out', much, and in Apple - probably not going to see any more non-5G devices.

    3. Should you wait it out. If I was between an unknown (i.e how well is 5g in area X, 4G LTE on T-Mobile is 'meh' at best, and Sprint is good, but being decommed), I'd wait it out. If T-Mobile doesn't have a good network in your area on 5G and its 4G is not up to snuff... you'll be unhappy. Wait to see if they 'fix it', or you'll be searching for a diff carrier.

    4. File a ticket with T-Mobile over issues (dial 611) - they may be able to tell you if service is being upgraded or new sites deployed.
    AT&T... your world, throttled.

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    Sounds like B71 is getting congested- I've seen it myself here and n71 (5G) does make a big difference. It's not just about speed tests.

    In a low income area here, pre B71, you'd be lucky to get over 2 Mbps, with high ping and jitter- basically unusable. Now you can get ~5 Mbps on LTE with decent ping and almost no jitter now that they added B71. Having a 5G phone makes the speed go from ~5 to 40+ Mbps, with lower ping and almost no jitter.

    While AT&T and Verizon have no problem getting 80+ on LTE.

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    Believe it or not there are 5G phones that don't cost $1K. Samsung Galaxy A51/A71 5G, $499/$599 MSRP. Can get them cheaper thru T-Mobile sometimes. Like I see on their website- add a line and you can get the A71 5G for $99. Or you can get one from eBay for $300-$400.

    Could try AT&T Prepaid or something similar. My main line I went from prepaid to postpaid and I cant tell the difference in data speed. Verizon is a whole different world when it comes to data speed on postpaid / prepaid.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maryland View Post
    Sounds like B71 is getting congested- I've seen it myself here and n71 (5G) does make a big difference. It's not just about speed tests.

    In a low income area here, pre B71, you'd be lucky to get over 2 Mbps, with high ping and jitter- basically unusable. Now you can get ~5 Mbps on LTE with decent ping and almost no jitter now that they added B71. Having a 5G phone makes the speed go from ~5 to 40+ Mbps, with lower ping and almost no jitter.

    While AT&T and Verizon have no problem getting 80+ on LTE.
    Yep, this is kind of where I was at—near my work there's a few "rural" towers that hadn't seen upgrades so if you were on Verizon, things got congested pretty easily (lucky to get 2Mbps or so) and T-Mobile had you on a very-congested B12. 5G Nationwide seemed to make Verizon usable in that area, and the speeds weren't bad even on prepaid (maybe 30-40Mbps). For T-Mobile, the experience matches what you've seen (almost unusable when it was LTE-only, the upgrades helped LTE and 5G is pretty snappy on n71). Once n41 kicks in, it's 200-300Mbps in an area that I was lucky to load a web page in 6 months ago on just LTE. In that case, the marketing hype of 5G doesn't really matter, but it's more that there's usable data in more places.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maryland View Post
    Believe it or not there are 5G phones that don't cost $1K. Samsung Galaxy A51/A71 5G, $499/$599 MSRP. Can get them cheaper thru T-Mobile sometimes. Like I see on their website- add a line and you can get the A71 5G for $99. Or you can get one from eBay for $300-$400.
    Yep, I feel like the "thousand dollar phone" is a go-to argument against new technology without realizing that spending a little more (even on lower-end devices) can sometimes make for a better experience. I have a family member that sort of has the attitude that phones should be like $200, yet when I upgraded him from a 2016 iPhone SE to a 2020 iPhone SE (Cricket promo), he was amazed at how much better it was in every way. And to get back to the point, I prefer iOS and even then, $700 gets you a 5G-capable iPhone (quite a bit less than $1000).

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    Understanding 5G Frequencies

    I am contemplating a Pixel 5 as a less expensive 5G secondary data phone - while retaining my 4G LTE iPhone X as my primary phone.

    My rationalization is that I am awaiting release of IPhone ~13, 14 - extending the time for an inevitable purchase of a more complete 5G iPhone. Plus, I enjoy and miss some of then flexibility and capabilities of Android OS.

    Tying into the topic of this thread, I don’t understand why T-Mo does not (yet) sell the Pixel 5 even though they sell the Pixel 4a 5G.

    Are there expanded band features in the Pixel 5 that T-Mo is not quite ready to support, such as MMWave, C-band, et al?

    I realize that the auction for C-band was just completed. I am just befuddled on the 5G buildout irrespective of the Sprint integration unless that is an unrealistic.

    I would appreciate any edification or links to reference material. TIA.
    Last edited by gdrenick74; 02-14-2021 at 03:33 PM.

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    Thank you @e.mote.

    Your information was quite helpful. I don’t mind a reference to “ignorance” as I, like others, are trying to sort out marketing hype, gain insights on 5G reality, and ultimately prioritize.

    Looks like I will be happy with my current iPhone X for a couple of more years for sure.

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    There's no 'rush' to 5g. In many areas, it doesn't really help much, and often when clinging onto 5g can make service worse.
    If you have a "great deal" on a 5g device, it can be worth it. Others have mentioned to wait for at least another version. Kinda like not taking the first year a new car mod comes out.

    Sent from my IN2017 using HoFo mobile app

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    Quote Originally Posted by e.mote View Post
    Why spend $700 to *maybe* fix a problem when $15 for a plan (on another carrier) will do? Why do you insist that OP stick with T-Mobile?

    As said, the fixation on 5G is strong within this thread. People have had connectivity problems long before 5G, and have solved them without having to buy an expensive new phone. OP has an XS, which from his account still works great.

    If OP wants a new shiny, that's fine. But that's different than needing to buy a 5G phone to fix his connectivity issue. Your--and others'--advice to buy a new 5G phone to fix a connectivity problem is, simply put, bad advice.
    Actually, I think we're really on the same page more than you think—sorry if I came across otherwise. I was never suggesting OP buy a new phone or stick with T-Mobile, but maybe chiming in gave that impression. Personally, I upgraded to a 12 mini for the other features (and downsizing) and 5G was a bonus that also helped with connectivity across two of the three carriers where I work. Right now, 5G reminds me of the early days of LTE, and then the days when Band 12 was the "magic fix" for T-Mobile coverage issues. I sort of see the new network technologies being baked in with normal device upgrades as a "nice to have" but not the sole reason to upgrade.

    AT&T was always king with LTE where I lived and worked, but leaving a tower broken (devices would connect, but no traffic would flow on B12/17) for about 8 months had me looking elsewhere last summer. Verizon was okay except for where it was heavily congested, T-Mobile was underbuilt and congested. Considering I didn't want to go back to AT&T, it was waiting to see which of the other two could work for me (ran them both for a time). 5G on Verizon in that area helped with a few congested spots, but otherwise was basically the same (thanks, DSS), while T-Mobile 5G sort of put it on par or better than AT&T LTE, so that worked out. 5G improvements helped in that area for me beyond bragging rights speed tests nonsense that happens on here and Reddit.

    That being said, you're right that OP has a solid phone and might need to just find a new carrier (I actually picked up some discounted 2020 iPhone SEs for family members and those will be plenty useful for quite some time to come).

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    @e.mote what happened to your 2 replies, making me look like I'm talking to myself. Must not have liked that I proved not all 5G phone cost $1k LOL.

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    My observations surely are rather anecdotal ones, but it seems that the signal is weaker in said location during the afternoon hours. When going to a different location half a mile or mile away, the speed is a lot better.

    But I am back in the city, and I won't be upgrading immediately. I considered looking into different prepaid options on a different network, and the most I could be saving is around $45 monthly for two lines. It's money, but it's not worth the hassle since I would have to pay myself Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Tidal Premium which are currently included. I could make without Tidal probably, but Amazon Prime and Hulu are non-negotiable. Plus, a third line with Sprint/T-Mo is for free which will be the kid's line once a bit older.

    Regarding 5G, I want to see if T-Mo comes up with a better deal on the 12 models once the iPhone 13 is out. For now, I can live with how things are.

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