T-Mobile 5G: Everything you need to know

5G connected on Zenfone 8 with Android 12
(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

The T-Mobile 5G network launched back in 2019, and the 'un-carrier' has since been one of the leaders in providing high-speed wireless connectivity to its customers. As of 2024, its overall network infrastructure is claimed to cover more than 330 million users across two million square miles in the United States. This primarily involves the 'Extended Range' 5G network, which utilizes the n71 band (600MHz). That being said, T-Mobile is also continuing to expand its 'Ultra Capacity' 5GUC network, which uses multiple bands — n41 (2.5GHz), n258 (24GHz), n260 (39GHz), and n261 (28GHz) — to offer coverage. 

With a strong lead in coverage (as compared to rivals like Verizon and AT&T) and the capacity to keep improving, T-Mobile is in a strong position to maintain its leadership in 5G for many years to come. Whether you're an existing T-Mobile user, planning to switch to it soon, or simply want to learn more about the capabilities and availability of T-Mobile's 5G network, you've come to the right place. 

T-Mobile 5G: Starting at $50/month

T-Mobile 5G: Starting at $50/month

If you want access to USA's largest 5G network, T-Mobile is the carrier for you. It offers nationwide 5G coverage on all data plans, along with perks such as advanced spam-blocking, hotspot usage, and even subscription to services such as Netflix thrown in the mix with selected plans. 

Checking coverage

Do I have 5G coverage on T-Mobile?

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Most customers that have T-Mobile 5G coverage are covered via its low-range n71 band, which uses the 600MHz spectrum. T-Mobile calls this the 'Extended Range 5G' network, and it's reclaimed from broadcast TV. Extended Range 5G has allowed T-Mobile to upgrade its existing towers with 5G equipment and provide the same level of coverage that users have come to expect from 3G and 4G networks in the past.

T-Mobile states that it covers more than 330 million people with the combined range of all its networks. It also claims to cover 300 million users via the 'Ultra Capacity 5G' network, which multiple bands across different frequencies to offer extremely fast network speeds. As Ultra Capacity 5G network continues to grow, many of T-Mobile's customers are starting to see massively improved speeds. Also, at the end of 2023, T-Mobile announced the upgradation of its network to 5G standalone, which means your phone doesn't need to connect to an LTE network before connecting to 5G.

The network has also been able to use carrier aggregation in some areas to improve performance even further. Carrier aggregation uses multiple bands simultaneously to create a higher-speed connection than what would be possible on a single band. 

The best way to know if you're covered is to check the T-Mobile coverage map. T-Mobile also shows the places where it has Ultra Capacity 5G on its map, so you can get a good idea of what kind of speeds will be available to you.

T-Mobile coverage map

(Image credit: T-Mobile)

Phone compatibility

Will my phone work with T-Mobile 5G?

For the most part, all of the best Android phones will work with T-Mobile's 5G. With T-Mobile's growing 5G network and plenty of new 5G-enabled smartphones getting launched, you shouldn't have trouble finding a device that suits your requirements and budget.

To be sure you get the best possible results from T-Mobile's 5G network, make sure your new smartphone supports both n71 and n41 bands. Majority of the latest 5G smartphones, such as Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, fully support the network. You can also choose from affordable options like OnePlus Nord N300 5G if you wish to.

T-Mobile is using the 2.5GHz spectrum it got from Sprint to boost its own 5G network and to do so, has taken the Sprint 5G network down

Older devices like the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G or OnePlus 7T Pro 5G won't be getting an update to support T-Mobile 5G. That said, those still hanging on to a Sprint plan with a newer T-Mobile compatible smartphone will get 5G access.

Google Pixel 8 Pro camera bar in the porcelain colorway

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Which plans offer 5G?

Does my T-Mobile plan come with 5G access?

All T-Mobile plans come with 5G access, which is great since some of the best cell phone plans you can get use the T-Mobile network. T-Mobile makes no distinction between its networks, so any customer with a compatible phone should be able to access it. 

It's worth noting that customers with premium data on a T-Mobile Magenta plan will be prioritized in crowded areas. This is also the case for T-Mobile Prepaid, as well as MVNOs such as Mint Mobile, Ultra Mobile and Google Fi, which use its network. T-Mobile has also enabled 5G on all Sprint plans.

Previously under Sprint, Boost Mobile is now owned by Dish Wireless and is slowly transitioning its customers to the new T-Mobile network, with the goal of eventually moving all its customers to its own standalone 5G network. 

ServiceMode on phone screen

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Technology used

What tech is T-Mobile using for 5G? 

5G comes in several different forms, with a variety of results depending on what resources a carrier can throw at it. T-Mobile started with high-band 5G on the 28GHz and 32GHz bands. 

With this network, T-Mobile should be competitive with what Verizon and AT&T have been doing, once the network has more time to mature. This high-band deployment should be capable of very high speeds, although building penetration and coverage are much more limited than what we're used to with 4G networks.

T-Mobile launched a 600MHz, low-band 'Extended Range 5G' network in December of 2019. With new equipment, the carrier has been able to update its 4G LTE services on the same towers. AT&T and Verizon have also deployed low-band 5G networks with similar coverage capabilities.

Of course, then there's Sprint's 2.5GHz spectrum. T-Mobile has more than 160MHz of spectrum at 2.5GHz in the top 100 US markets and has already shut down Sprint's 5G network to create its 'Ultra Capacity 5G' built on the same spectrum. T-Mobile has been expanding band n41 (one of the bands used for 5GUC) utilization with carrier aggregation, using two chunks of 2.5GHz spectrum for even faster 5G access.

T-Mobile 5G Spectrum

(Image credit: T-Mobile)

On August 4, 2020, T-Mobile launched its standalone 5G (5G SA) network. 5G SA can work alone without devices needing to first connect to an older and less efficient LTE network. Previously, 5G phones required this existing infrastructure in order to work properly.

Functionally, this is essentially the same network as before, albeit with some nice improvements. According to T-Mobile's announcement, 5G SA improves coverage by 30 percent, since phones will no longer need to connect to a mid-band LTE signal that doesn't reach as far as 5G at 600MHz. 

While there were still many improvements with non-standalone 5G compared to LTE in speed, the 5G network was held back. T-Mobile estimates a 40 percent improvement in latency thanks to the switch, which should help with faster data access.

A much more affordable option

What is Connect by T-Mobile?

'Connect by T-Mobile' is simply a low-priced phone plan that allows access to the 5G network. Plans are offered starting at $10 per month for 1,000 minutes of talktime and 1,000 texts, along with 1GB of data. 

There is also a $25 per month plan with 6.5GB of data, as well as unlimited talk and texts. Interestingly, the plan is set to grow as usage does by increasing the data allowance by 500MB a year until March 2025. Video streaming is also available, even though it's restricted to SD quality. This is by no means a huge amount, but for a low-income family, this can be a lifesaver.

You can find out more about these plans at T-Mobile prepaid.

Is 5G worth it?

Is T-Mobile 5G worth it?

On T-Mobile, it really comes down to whether you want the phone because there is no current separation of plans. Most new phones you can buy for T-Mobile support 5G, so most new T-Mobile customers and upgrading existing customers will be using the network. If you're looking for a good reason to upgrade your phone, 5G will offer much improved speeds in many places.

While 4G LTE will continue to be fast enough for many people for years to come, so if you're happy with your speeds, there's no rush. Most new phones on T-Mobile, even the cheap ones, are 5G compatible now so when you're ready for an upgrade, 5G will be waiting for you to make the switch.

What are the best T-Mobile 5G phones?

Samuel Contreras

When Samuel is not writing about networking or 5G at Android Central, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.

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