Upon Galaxy S9 release, U.S. carriers reveal network strategies

As Samsung unveils its latest Android gadget, the Galaxy S9, all of the top wireless carriers in the United States announced they plan to sell it as soon as possible, according to a FierceWireless report.
The focus on Samsung’s most recent device is around its features and functionality such as display, the camera and speakers. However, network operators are just as interested in what kind of network technology the S9 possesses. This inquiry stems from the fact that Samsung’s devices usually are at the forefront when it comes to including new wireless technologies and spectrum bands that operators are working on deploying. Plus, Samsung tends to build versions of its devices that are geared towards individual operators so they can accommodate their specific technologies and spectrum bands.
Samsung’s ability to cater its devices to individual operators is a good reason to take a deeper dive into the wireless network technologies the Galaxy S9 comprises. The closer look will help determine what kind of wireless network technologies each of the top carriers in the country will have their sights set on.
Currently, Samsung has not released many details about what is inside the S9 that’s coming to the U.S. The company’s specification website only stated the Galaxy S9 and S9+ sport has, “Enhanced 4×4 MIMO/CA, LAA AND LTE Cat.18.” The devices also comprise high-end Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and location capabilities, but U.S. customers might only get part of those specifications. Samsung usually builds stock-keeping units that are specific to a certain region’s characteristics. The company advises on its specs page that features could vary by country and carrier.
As each of the major carriers prepares to sell the Galaxy S9, they shared each of their unique network elements.
T-Mobile stated its version of the S9 and S9+ would support its growing 600MHz wireless network, which is significant as only a few of the carrier’s devices currently support that spectrum band. T-Mobile is also the only major U.S. operator building out a 600 MHz network; by including 600 MHz support in the S9, it’s shows how important the band is to T-Mobile and how Samsung is doing what it can to meet its carrier partners’ requirements.
“(Samsung’s S9 and S9+ will) have state-of-the-art hardware that can tap into advanced LTE technologies on the T-Mobile network — including the trifecta of 4×4 MIMO, carrier aggregation and 256 QAM, as well as License Assisted Access (LAA). The Un-carrier has now deployed the trifecta of LTE-Advanced technologies in nearly 5,000 cities and towns across the country, and since the Galaxy S9 and S9+ rock the latest Snapdragon 845 chipset from Qualcomm, they can hit a blistering 1.2 Gbps in laboratory tests, a 20% increase in peak theoretical speed over the Galaxy S8,” the carrier said in a statement.
Sprint meanwhile announced it would include its HPUE network technology in the S9. HPUE is designed to improve devices that access Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum by improving the gadgets’ range using the band. According to Sprint executives, HPUE essentially ensures the company’s 2.5 GHz spectrum performs the same as its lower-band spectrum. Samsung is currently one of a number of Sprint handset suppliers supporting HPUE.
Also, the Sprint 2.5 GHz is crucial to the carrier’s long-term network strategy. So crucial in fact that Sprint is adding 2.5 GHz antennas to nearly the operator’s entire collection of cell towers since only half of them currently support the spectrum.
“With an average of 204 MHz of spectrum and more than 160 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in the top 100 U.S. markets, Sprint has more mobile broad band spectrum than any other carrier across the nation, allowing Sprint to keep adding the capacity and speed needed to serve customers’ increasing demand for unlimited data,” Sprint said in its S9 release.
AT&T also shared a glimpse into where it will put its network efforts. According to its release first responders that subscribe to FirstNet will be able to add the Galaxy S9/S9+ to the tools it currently uses to safely and effectively respond to emergencies.
“The Galaxy S9/S9+ will let first responders tap into the full FirstNet experience, delivering a reliable, highly secure and always-on connection to the critical information they need. The Galaxy S9/S9+ is also the first Samsung device with built-in Band 14 access, the new frequency band that will be built out for FirstNet,” the company said.
AT&T won the FirstNet contract last year to build a nationwide network for public safety users with FirstNet’s 20 MHz of a nationwide 700 MHz spectrum. The hope for AT&T is the move will help it grab more market share among police and fire departments as well as other first responders.
Verizon was not as forthcoming in terms of network-specific details in its S9 announcement however. The carrier just said, “The best streaming network meets a revolutionary Infinity Display.” The company declined to provide any more details on its S9 network specifications and technologies. Verizon may comment further in March when it plans to start selling the S9 along with the other carriers in the U.S.
Device analysts have given the Samsung Galaxy S9 sound reviews so far.
“The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus offer incremental improvements over their immediate predecessors, notably the camera, which received particular attention during the launch. This is a potentially tough sell for the Korean smartphone maker, but the real goal of the new models is making an already good product even better as Samsung takes the fight to Apple,” CCS analysts wrote.
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