Twin Cities showdown: SRG tests Dish/Samsung vs. T-Mo/Ericsson, NSA vs. SA

How does Dish Wireless’ network look in a match-up against another operator, particularly outside of its market of initial focus (Las Vegas)? Signals Research Group delved into that question in a new report, using Samsung Galaxy devices in extended drive tests in the Twin Cities area to compare band-level spectral efficiency and performance.

The two carriers’ network vendors in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area are Samsung (Dish) and Ericsson (T-Mobile US). When T-Mo’s n41 midband spectrum assets were included, then the RAN performance measures were better on T-Mo’s network, SRG said — but the band-by-band comparisons were a bit different. SRG also looked at the relative differences between 5G NonStandalone (T-Mobile’s network) compared to 5G Standalone, and took note that when the Dish SIM fell back to the T-Mobile US network (because Dish doesn’t have an NSA network), T-Mo clearly prioritized the experience of its own customers.

“This type of study puts the impetus on vendor performance since a typical user experience on an operator’s network doesn’t involve the MacGyver-esque actions that
we employed,” SRG explained. SRG used a Galaxy A23 smartphone with a Boost Mobile SIM on the Dish network and a Galaxy S23 smartphone on T-Mobile US’ network. The phones were locked to specific 5G bands to compared uplink and downlink performance during drive tests in the Twin Cities area, the benchmarking and analysis firm said.

When all 5G bands were enabled, SRG said that total throughput was better on the T-Mo network because it has far more spectrum than Dish. But on a per-band basis, Dish’s SA network had better downlink performance in terms of bits-per-second per Hertz. (In the uplink, the firm noted, that was less clear because of the need to account for the differences in channel bandwidth that was available and how that impacts uplink coverage.)

“One thing that was evident is that T-Mobile has a denser cell grid than Dish Wireless,” SRG concluded—not a huge surprise, given the Dish’s network is a new build under a tight deadline and it had to meet certain coverage requirements, rather than densification as a goal in the first go-round. But the analysis also praised on the Dish network, saying that coverage was decent, the price was great and throttling was nonexistent as far as the firm could tell.

“Frankly, it boggles the mind that Dish Wireless isn’t doing something/anything to promote its offering. If you build it, they will come… but only if you first promote it!” SRG said.

Other takeaways from SRG’s analysis:

-Latency testing showed that 5G SA beat out NSA, and SA also had better connection times and fewer, faster handovers. In terms of SA vs. SA, latency results were better for T-Mo’s 5G SA compared to Dish’s 5G SA. Those latency tests also showed that when Dish’s traffic was forced to fall-back to T-Mobile’s network, Dish traffic was deprioritized. “Using another operator’s network when there isn’t Dish coverage can result in a poor user experience, but only when there is network congestion,” SRG concluded.

-Dish had better spectral efficiency in two separate, extended drive tests that looked at Band n70 versus band n25 and n71. SRG noted that T-Mo’s n41 spectrum probably had the best spectral efficiency of all, but it wasn’t included in this particular analysis.

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