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What Is 5G UC? Explaining T-Mobile’s Upgraded 5G Network

logo featuring "5g uc" in bold, with a stylized network signal icon on the right, all against a soft green background.

You’ve probably heard of 5G. But what about 5G UC, and how is it different from 5G UW and 5G Plus? In this article, we break it all down for you.

For starters,  5G UC (short for 5G Ultra Capacity) is T-Mobile’s upgraded version of 5G using mid-band or high-band frequencies.

Verizon and AT&T also have their own higher frequency versions called 5G UW (aka Ultra Wide) and 5G Plus, respectively. More on Verizon and AT&T’s upgraded 5G networks later.

If you’re interested in accessing 5G and higher-frequency 5G networks, you’ll need to make sure your phone is up to the task with our 5G phone article. Then use our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder below to find the best phone deals you qualify for at T-Mobile and other major wireless carriers.

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What is 5G?

Before we can explain T-Mobile 5G UC—what it is, how it works, and how it differs from 5G, let’s quickly define 5G.

The fifth generation of wireless communication, 5G, uses a higher frequency than 4G and all the previous generations. In short, 5G boasts faster speeds and improved service.

Basically, the little 5G icon on your phone tells you that your service will work better and you won’t experience lag times, even during high-traffic hours. Downloading and streaming is faster on 5G, too.

At least, that’s how 5G is billed. Interestingly, some people didn’t notice a big difference between 4G and 5G when it first came out. 

That’s in part because there are different bands associated with 5G. The low-band 5G has the widest reach, but it’s slower than the higher band frequencies of 5G UC.

What Does 5G UC Mean?

The UC in T-Mobile 5G UC stands for “Ultra Capacity.” This feature is their higher frequency, mid-band to high-band (mmWave) frequency network.

Like their competitors, T-Mobile’s upgraded 5G UC offers greater speeds and better performance than the lowest band, 5G, which T-Mobile calls 5G Extended Range. With the higher 5G frequency, users get better streaming and downloading and higher capacity.

Notably, T-Mobile offers greater coverage for their higher band networks than either Verizon or AT&T. But their standard 5G tends to be slower than Verizon or AT&T’s standard 5G networks. According to T-Mobile, the 5G UC network covers 330 million people across all 50 states.

How 5G UC Works

T-Mobile started to roll out its 5G UC network a few weeks after merging with Sprint in 2020, using its newly acquired towers and a mix of bands and higher mmWave frequencies.

Impact of mmWave

It's important to note that mmWave, which is used in 5G UC, has a shorter range and can struggle to penetrate buildings compared to lower frequencies. That means you might not always be able to experience the top speeds in certain locations.

If you have a phone equipped to use 5G UC, you will see better performance, faster speeds, and less lag time, even during the busiest hours or in an area with a lot of strain on the network, such as a concert or large gathering assuming nothing is obstructing your access.

You do need to purchase a smartphone equipped with a higher bandwidth network.

5G vs 5G UC Speed comparisons

While 5G UC boasts significantly faster speeds than standard 5G, real-world download speeds can vary depending on location and network congestion. You can typically expect download speeds in the range of 100 to 900 Mbps with 5G UC, compared to 25-50 Mbps for standard 4G LTE.

5G UC Battery Drain 

It's also worth mentioning that using 5G UC can drain your battery faster than using standard 5G or even 4G LTE. That’s because 5G UC requires more power to transmit and receive data at higher speeds.

T-Mobile 5G Phone Plans 

With T-Mobile unlimited plans, 5G network access (both standard and ultra capacity) is automatically included where available. Whether you choose one of T-Mobile’s entry-level unlimited plans like T-Mobile Essentials Saver or T-Mobile Essentials, the mid-level unlimited T-Mobile Go5G plan or a premium unlimited option like T-Mobile Go5G Plus or T-Mobile Go5G Next, you’ll enjoy the same 5G connectivity as long as your phone is 5G and 5G UC capable.  

5G UC vs 5G UW vs 5G Plus

Whether you go with T-Mobile, Verizon, or AT&T, their enhanced 5G coverage offerings provide higher speed and better performance than standard 5G. All three carriers are continuously expanding their 5G networks. At the time of the writing of this article,  T-Mobile edges out the competition in overall 5G coverage, Verizon wins for 5G speed where available, and AT&T falls somewhere in between. 

Here’s a brief overview by carrier:

5G UC from T-Mobile 

T-Mobile boasts the widest coverage for its high-band network. That means you're more likely to experience the "blazing-fast speeds" of 5G UC in a wider range of locations. It primarily utilizes the 2.5 GHz mid-band spectrum, offering a good balance between speed and reach.

  • Pros: Widest coverage for its high-band network, meaning you can experience the fastest 5G speeds in many areas.
  • Cons: Since it uses higher frequencies, it may not penetrate buildings as well as lower-band signals, and the range might be shorter.

5G UW from Verizon

Verizon 5G UW leverages millimeter wave technology, a super high-frequency band that delivers high speeds when you can connect to it. However, the signal has a shorter range and struggles to penetrate buildings. Additionally, not all phones are compatible with Verizon's UW network.

  • Pros: Very high speeds when you can connect to it.
  • Cons: It’s not as widely available as T-Mobile's 5G UC and requires compatible phones and coverage areas to access UW speeds.

5G Plus from AT&T

AT&T 5G Plus keeps things straightforward with its naming. Their standard 5G uses lower bands for broader coverage, while 5G Plus steps up to a higher-band frequency for increased speed.

  • Pros: Straightforward naming. 5G Plus offers higher speeds than their standard 5G coverage.
  • Cons: Coverage information isn't as clearly publicized compared to Verizon and T-Mobile.

The Bottom Line

To recap, 5G UC is T-Mobile’s upgraded version of 5G. It’s available for all of T-Mobile’s customers with compatible phones on any T-Mobile unlimited plan. Remember, less expensive phones and older models may not be able to access Ultra Capacity.

Another important note is that these enhanced 5G high-band frequencies may struggle with signal penetration indoors or in rural areas.

When evaluating 5G network speeds, there’s a lot to consider. If you need the absolute fastest speeds and frequently travel to areas with strong signal access, Verizon's 5G UW could be ideal. If the broadest coverage area with good 5G speeds is your main criteria, T-Mobile's 5G UC might be the better option. AT&T's 5G Plus offers a clear upgrade over their standard 5G, but coverage details are less clearly spelled out by the carrier.

Now that you’ve got the lay of the 5G land, you may be considering switching carriers or upgrading your phone. Either way, Navi is here to help with our Plan Finder and Phone Deal Finder.

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