Google’s monthly update on Monday primarily addressed the Pixel 4a 5G’s edge touch recognition issues. However, the February security patch also added support for T-Mobile Standalone (SA) 5G on that phone and the Pixel 5.

Update 2/8: The February security patch is now widely rolling out, with the “Check for update” button pulling down the 49.84MB immediately as of Monday morning.


Original 2/3: In rolling out 5G, carriers leveraged their existing LTE networks to help speed up deployment. This non-standalone network architecture (NSA) approach, in the case of T-Mobile, saw 600 MHz 5G combined with and reliant on mid-band LTE. Access to the latter network is required to get the former. As such, the “5G signal only goes as far as mid-band LTE,” thus neutering one advantage of the new technology.

With the launch of standalone architecture (SA), 5G can exist without and operate independently of LTE. Signals can travel further, which allows for better indoor/building penetration. In its announcement enabling this network in August of 2020, T-Mobile says it “immediately increased its 5G footprint by 30 percent,” thus aiding latency and eventually — but not currently — speeds.

In SA areas, T-Mobile engineers have already seen up to a 40% improvement in latency during testing, and that is just the beginning of what can be done with Standalone 5G.

T-Mobile

On the January security patch (and earlier), you could see that NSA was in use by heading into Settings > About phone > SIM status > Mobile data network type.

Following this month’s update, many have encountered SA 5G where they would normally get NSA. This also extends to Google Fi (as seen in the right screenshot), which leases service from T-Mobile. 

Like all other connectivity matters, SA 5G is dependent on the network being built out in your location, as well as a compatible SIM card in T-Mobile’s case.

The February patch with standalone (SA) 5G support is not widely rolled out to the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G in the US. Compared to past months, the “Check for update” button does not immediately download. It comes as there is a separate T-Mobile/Sprint build (RQ1C.210205.006) this month, so those sideloading should be aware of that distinction.

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