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T-Mobile ups 5G ante with home broadband, free phone upgrades

  • April 08, 2021

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Samsung's lowest-priced smartphone to support 5G, the A32 5G ($279.99-up), also has a 6.5-inch display.

If you’ve been thinking about making the move to 5G, this could prove to be a good time to do it. The specs on the new Samsung A32 are surprisingly strong for a lower-cost phone – especially one you can get for free.

It features a 6.5” LCD display that runs at 90 Hz (instead of the typical 60 Hz), providing a much smoother scrolling and overall experience for all your streaming, browsing, and gaming applications. It also has four cameras, including a 48 megapixel main camera, 8 MP ultrawide, and a 13 MP front-facing camera that’s seamlessly built into the top of the main screen.

The phone is powered by MediaTek’s Dimensity 720 chip, which not only offers solid performance for this price range but also gives it some 5G capabilities that are uniquely suited to T-Mobile’s 5G network (a feature that even the significantly more expensive iPhone 12 doesn’t have). Specifically, the A32 supports a technology called carrier aggregation that allows the phone to essentially make multiple simultaneous connections over different frequencies to speed up its performance. Think of it like having an extra lane over which 5G data connections can travel. T-Mobile’s network is the first to turn this capability on for 5G, and Samsung’s A32 is one of the first phones to support it (Samsung’s high-end Galaxy S21 series also does). This combination should allow for some of the best 5G performance possible across the widest coverage areas.

In addition to the phone offers, the other big news from T-Mobile is their Home Internet service. Though Verizon’s 5G Home was technically first on the market, it’s only available in an extremely limited portion of a small group of cities. The new T-Mobile service, on the other hand, is expected to be available across 30 million US households at launch, including a large swath of rural America. This is an extremely important development, as many small towns across the country have suffered through abysmal or nearly non-existent Internet service – a fact that became painfully obvious through the pandemic.

T-Mobile’s Home Internet offering isn’t cheap at $60/month (although there are no equipment or installation fees), particularly for lower-income households that are more common in rural areas, but for that price the speed of the service is pretty impressive.

Notably, the company said Home Internet – which does not require any long-term contract – should deliver average downloads speeds of about 100 Mbps (uploads are expected to be in the 10-25 Mbps range). These speeds are more than adequate for most applications – including video streaming.

The new T-Mobile Home Internet service (4G/5G gateway shown at right) is expected to be available across 30 million U.S. households at launch, including a large swath of rural America. It boasts average downloads speeds of about 100 Mbps (uploads are expected to be in the 10-25 Mbps range).

Plus, a broadband solution based on 5G, instead of wired cable lines, offers a new degree of freedom and flexibility, and frees consumers from the often-painful process of dealing with cable providers. If you’re curious, T-Mobile has a map where you can check to see if the service is available in your area. The actual setup process sounds straightforward – the company sends you a router box (which also includes support for the latest WiFi 6 standard, by the way), you download an app to configure it, and you’re good to go. No antennas and no wires required.

Faster cellular service on our smartphones is something we’ve become accustomed to, but it’s nice to see T-Mobile helping make the process of jumping up to 5G much easier. The opportunity to turn wireless networks into a provider of broadband internet, however, is truly a game changer. This T-Mobile Home Internet service could prove to be extremely valuable, especially for households that have had limited options for internet service. Finally, it seems, the promise of 5G is starting to arrive.

USA TODAY columnist Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, a market research and consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. His clients are major technology firms including Microsoft, HP, Dell, Samsung and Intel. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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