Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

T-Mobile just achieved 3Gbps 5G speeds — without mmWave

T-Mobile is setting out to prove that carriers don’t need to deploy extremely high-frequency mmWave technology to get blazing fast speeds. Thanks to Carrier Aggregation technology, the “Un-carrier” has demonstrated performance of 3Gbps download speeds on good old-fashioned low-band and mid-band 5G channels.

In a press release today, T-Mobile revealed that it has reached these unprecedented speeds for the first time ever on a commercial device; in this case, a Samsung Galaxy S22 powered by a Snapdragon X65 modem. “This test demonstrates the incredible power of mid-band spectrum and represents another huge step forward for stand-alone 5G,” said Neville Ray, President of Technology at T-Mobile.

Speed test results showing 3127 megabit per second speeds on T-Mobile.The big takeaway, of course, is that it was accomplished without mmWave bands. While mmWave has traditionally been responsible for the fastest 5G speeds, it requires demanding infrastructure and isn’t well-known for its reliability. The hope with T-Mobile’s Carrier Aggregation tech is that it can deliver mmWave-like speeds more sustainably.

How 5G Carrier Aggregation works

It’s rare to reach even single gigabit speeds using mid-band frequencies. The recent C-band rollouts from AT&T and Verizon are improving things, and some isolated tests have shown performance peaking slightly above 1Gbps. But most customers typically find themselves in the sub-500Mbps range with this flavor of 5G.

Still, with mid-band frequencies capable of reaching 5G speeds of 1Gbps — albeit only under ideal conditions — T-Mobile set out to find out what it could accomplish by tying three of these frequencies together, using a technique known as 5G Carrier Aggregation (NR CA).

Speedtest results on a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Adam Doud/Digital Trends

For this specific test, T-Mobile used two channels from its 2.5GHz Ultra Capacity 5G network and one channel of 1900MHz (1.9GHz) spectrum that’s typically occupied by older 4G/LTE services. This provided an effective 210MHz of 5G spectrum across the three channels.

The 1.9GHz frequencies that T-Mobile used in its testing are also part of a standalone 5G architecture (5G SA) network that T-Mobile plans to bring online later this year. Despite 4G/LTE frequencies operating in the same spectrum, this new 1.9GHz channel won’t have its performance hampered by relying on Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS).

Which devices can use Carrier Aggregation

The first stage of T-Mobile’s new aggregated network went online this week, with two 2.5GHz channels to provide faster speeds and greater network capacity in key areas. The 1.9GHz 5G SA spectrum will go live later this year to add a third channel. Interestingly, the carrier adds that Samsung Galaxy S22 owners will get the first crack at this additional spectrum. However, it will eventually expand to additional areas and devices “in the near future.”

Sadly, some devices won’t be able to take advantage of these higher speeds due to a lack of support for Carrier Aggregation in their modem chipsets. The Snapdragon X60, used in Samsung’s Galaxy S21 and Apple’s iPhone 13 lineups, was the first to introduce 5G Carrier Aggregation of any kind. This means the older X55-equipped iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra will be left out of the party.

However, even though the X60 supports NR CA, it’s limited to 200MHz of bandwidth on the sub-6GHz frequencies, slightly below the 210MHz that T-Mobile was taking advantage of in its tests. By comparison, the X65 and the more recently announced X70 both offer 300MHz of bandwidth, plus other significant performance improvements.

T-Mobile hasn’t shared which areas are covered by the new 5G NR CA capabilities. The reliance on 2.5GHz mid-band 5G means it won’t exist outside the carrier’s 5G Ultra Capacity network, but it’s likely rolling out first in more densely populated areas.

Editors' Recommendations

Jesse Hollington
Jesse has been a technology enthusiast for his entire life — he probably would have been born with an iPhone in his hand…
What is 5G UC? What that icon on your phone really means
5G logo on the Motorola Edge (2022).

If you're wondering what 5G UC means at the top of your phone, you aren't alone. To put it simply, 5G UC is T-Mobile's "Ultra Capacity" 5G network. In other words, seeing this means that you are on T-Mobile's 5G network. At the same time, you may have also heard of 5G UW, a similar network protocol from Verizon.

Ultimately, being on the 5G UC network should mean you are receiving some of the best speeds possible. But, if you don't have a solid grasp of what 5G is and how these networks operate, you may not get the most out of your phone. Here's what you need to know about the 5G UC icon and how to use it best to benefit you.
T-Mobile's 5G UC

Read more
You can now get unlimited 5G for just $20 a month — with a twist
Helium Mobile $20/month plan banner showing a happy woman against a pink background.

Nova Labs, the company that pioneered the “people-powered” Helium Network, has just announced a wallet-friendly new plan under its Helium Mobile brand that offers unlimited data, talk, and text for only $20 a month.

The no-contract plan provides nationwide 5G access primarily through its own Helium Mobile Network that’s backed up by “the nation’s largest 5G network” — T-Mobile. This allows the carrier to provide full 5G coverage at much more affordable prices than traditional carriers and Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs).

Read more
This new MediaTek chip is about to bring 5G to a lot more devices
MediaTek M60 5G RedCap Modem.

One of the biggest promises of 5G technology isn’t merely faster performance but rather the ability to power a far more connected world — a global network where every device can get online from just about anywhere.

That’s the vision behind MediaTek’s new M60 5G modem and T300 chip, which aim to be small and efficient enough to bring 5G to wearables, internet-of-things (IoT) devices, and other electronics that benefit from reliable internet connectivity but don’t require the massive speed and bandwidth of modern laptops and smartphones.
Reduced capability for greater efficiency

Read more