T-Mobile poised to launch 2.5 GHz 5G carrier aggregation

HAWAII—Considering it’s already December, there isn’t a lot of time left in calendar year 2021, but T-Mobile is on a path this year to launch 5G carrier aggregation using 2.5 GHz channels.

Initially, it was all about carrier aggregation with 600 MHz and 2.5 GHz so they could prioritize the downlink on the higher performing channels and the uplink to extend coverage, said Ryan Sullivan, VP of Device & Technology at T-Mobile, speaking on the sidelines of the Snapdragon Tech Summit, an event sponsored by Qualcomm.   

“Now we’re focusing on 2.5,” he said. Aggregating two high-performing 5G 2.5 GHz carriers together will provide more than 100 MHz of capacity. That’s always been the goal, and now, it’s very close at hand.  

The reason is simple, said Karri Kuoppamaki, SVP, Technology Development & Strategy at T-Mobile. 5G as it’s defined sets the maximum carrier bandwidth at 100 MHz, and T-Mobile has more than 100 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in major markets across the country. That’s why the 2.5 GHz 5G carrier aggregation is important – so that it can maximize its spectrum position and use it to the fullest extent possible on 5G.

Put another way: In any given market, T-Mobile has 160+ MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum at its disposal. The way to use all of that is to take two 2.5 GHz carriers and aggregate them together, so they can fully use its 2.5 GHz spectrum for 5G.  

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More critical than ever now is they’re moving spectrum over from the legacy Sprint network onto T-Mobile. “As we get to that point where we have more than 100 MHz available, we want to be able take advantage of all of that,” for better capacity and better performance, Sullivan said.

Devices are starting to get upgrades this month, so certain handsets are already capable but they need to push out software updates to the devices so they’ll be able to use it by the end of the year. Not all devices will be capable at first, but over time, more of them will be able to take advantage of this 5G aggregation.

Both the iPhone 13 from Apple and most recent Android Samsung devices are capable of 2.5 GHz 5G carrier aggregation and the feature will be enabled via a software update, according to a T-Mobile spokesperson.