Additional note: T-Mobile contacted me after publication to make two things clear about their home Internet product. First, it’s me, not them, describing the Nokia modems as unreliable (based on my reviewbased on my review) and second, any potential new partners would be additional rather than implying the elimination of the current option. I thank them for their clarification.
Some conversations create one clear narrative, while others just answer a lot of burning questions. I’ve spent the week at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii (hard life, I know) and just had one of the latter types of conversation with T-Mobile. It was a bit all over the place, but it answered a lot of questions I wanted to know and can now share those insights with you.
The key players here are T-Mobile’s VP of product engineering Ryan Sullivan and SVP of tech strategy Karri Kuoppamaki. So what did they tell me about 5G?
- T-Mobile will be able to take advantage of the Qualcomm X65’s three-carrier 5G aggregation in several different ways. The carrier has more than 100MHz of mid-band 5G spectrum in a lot of places, and in those places, it needs 3xCA to do two 100MHz mid-band channels plus a low-band channel for uplink/better range. There are also some cities (like New York) where its mid-band allocation is split in half and can be used like two separate bands. So X65 phones (such as the Galaxy S22) should bring considerable performance improvements on T-Mobile’s mid-band.
- Kuoppamaki insists that low-to-mid-band carrier aggregation (n41/n71) is already live, but won’t tell me where it is. I have been having a lot of trouble finding this mysterious feature in the real world. Other sources tell me that it’s live on the network, but no consumer phones have gotten the firmware update needed to enable it on the device side.
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- 3.45-to-3.55GHz spectrum, which is in the middle of being auctioned, should clear in some places by the end of 2022. This means that AT&T, and whoever else buys that spectrum, will potentially see a considerable boost in C-band performance specifically when used with those X65 modems next year, over and above the initial C-band launches.
- T-Mobile is really downplaying millimeter-wave. In previous years it showed mmWave as a layer on its “layer cake” of spectrum; now it’s just a few candles. This is in dramatic contrast to how Qualcomm relentlessly pushed mmWave in every presentation for the past several days.
- You can’t make 8K video calls on Magenta Max. (Qualcomm has been talking a lot about 8K this week.) “There’s no deprioritization ever, but it’s up to 4K,” Sullivan said.
- Sullivan reiterated that yes, T-Mobile is getting new home internet equipment to replace those unreliable Nokia modems. “Very soon you’ll start to see announcements of what we’ve got in the emerging product roadmap there,” he said.
Good stuff, right?
What Else Happened This Week?
I have been writing possibly too many articles from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Summit. Some of it is my own psychological need to justify this trip to Hawaii by bombarding you with tech news; some of it is just that there’s a lot of tech news at this event. Here’s some of what I’ve done so far: