Pixel 5 and 4a 5G users got an added bonus with Google’s February security patch: support for T-Mobile Standalone (SA) 5G.
The first 5G networks launched by US carriers utilized the carriers’ existing LTE networks, a strategy which allowed for faster deployment but not true 5G. With the launch of standalone architecture (SA), 5G operates completely independently of LTE. One major benefit is that SA 5G signals can travel further, allowing 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,” aiding latency and eventually providing better speeds.
Prior to this update, users could see that NSA was in use by going to Settings > About phone > SIM status > Mobile data network type.
After installing the February update, many users have connected to SA 5G where they would normally get NSA. This also extends to Google Fi, which leases service from T-Mobile.