By 2021, you no longer have to do your best to choose a specific carrier, plan, or phone to get 5G. You can access the next generation network virtually anywhere you go. And that’s great because again you can choose a 5G provider based on their coverage, plans and overall experience.
Here we break down all three of the major carriers that offer 5G to show you which ones are at the forefront of different areas so you can choose the right one for you.
Best 5G Provider Overall: Verizon
Verizon was the first to launch its 5G network and stumbled upon it. It launched an mmWave-only network, which was a clear mistake. It offered incredible speeds, but the coverage was really awful. It took several months to make a change and to offer a nationwide Sub-6 5G network. But now it has a great combination of the two, which makes it the best 5G carrier today.
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The only downside, as always, is the cost: Verizon has the most expensive plans, no matter how many lines you choose. Plans start at $ 70 per month for one line, or $ 45 per month per line for three lines – although that plan doesn’t even include access to its mmWave network. You are not turning to Verizon for a good price; you choose the carrier for its incredible footprint and speeds.
Verizon 5G: Everything You Need to Know
5G provider with the best price: T-Mobile
You may be surprised to learn that the T-Mobile 5G network ranks second here instead of AT&T. The once scrappy carrier has improved significantly in recent years, aided further by the merger with Sprint. T-Mobile was the first to launch a nationwide 5G network using the Sub-6 spectrum, and it has done a fantastic job of upgrading its existing towers to a 5G network that almost matches its 4G footprint. So if you had T-Mobile on 4G in the past, you would probably have 5G now.
T-Mobile’s plans also offer incredible value as they are cheaper across the board than Verizon and AT&T. Better yet, it offers more for that money. Once you go over the lowest plan, you get full speed data roaming in Canada and Mexico, free (limited) data roaming everywhere else internationally, a generous amount of hotspot data, a free Netflix promotion, and the simplicity of having taxes and fees included in your flat-rate invoice. T-Mobile billing is cheaper and simpler – a nice combination.
The downside to T-Mobile is overall coverage – right where Verizon leads the way. Even with Sprint’s integrated holdings, T-Mobile’s overall nationwide presence struggles to compete with Verizon and AT&T in more rural areas. If you are staying in denser urban areas, you would never know. But if you’re driving up the country roads, chances are the T-Mobile service will decline good for the other carriers.
T-Mobile 5G: Everything You Need to Know
The AT&T 5G network finds itself in a strange middle ground. It has neither the massive mmWave 5G network extension that Verizon does, nor the consistently far-reaching Sub-6 5G network that T-Mobile does. His plans also divided the difference between the carriers. So why should you choose AT&T?
Well, it really can come down to where you live. AT&T still has strongholds in many parts of the country, and if you are in one of those areas, definitely go for AT&T. The Sub-6 network is pretty strong, which is far more important than how big the mmWave network (or 5G +, as AT&T calls it) is – because it’s not big at all. AT&T has gotten a bad reputation for having a 5G network that isn’t noticeably faster than its 4G network, but part The explanation is that the 4G network is simply very robust in many parts of the country. If you get good speeds, does it really matter? You probably don’t care.
AT & T’s plans are price-competitive with T-Mobile’s, especially if you have multiple lines in your plan. The plans also include a good amount of fast, non-throttled data, and them can provide plenty of hotspot data – just go above the Unlimited Starter plan. But the plan’s extras just aren’t as good as T-Mobile’s in general, especially when it comes to international data roaming.
AT&T 5G: everything you need to know
How to choose a 5G provider and a 5G plan
So you are ready to choose a carrier and you care about an upgrade from 4G to 5G. Here’s how to make the right choice.
Understanding 5G coverage
The tricky thing about choosing a “best” airline in a country the size of the US is that your experience can vary greatly depending on where you live and visit. There is no way to have one answer for each person, and that means doing research to see which carrier is best where you must use it.
We have a comprehensive overview of the 5G network coverage of every carrier you can get started with. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile all have coverage maps as well. However, it is important to look at the maps very closely – they can often be misleading as to where 4G coverage ends and 5G coverage begins. And that’s even more important to note when you look at the mmWave coverage, which can be incredibly difficult to map correctly.
Believe it or not, it’s still best to ask friends and family in your area about their experiences with different carriers. This can be more difficult these days if you’re specifically looking for the experience of people with 5G who won’t be using them unless they have a newer phone. Just as you look at coverage maps, you want to make sure you indicate that you want to learn more about the 5G experience.
But it’s not all about 5G; even as the networks expand, you will still spend a significant amount of time on 4G, especially when in more rural areas. Verizon is known for its robust nationwide coverage, but it’s all thanks to the 4G network, not 5G. AT&T is second in this regard, and T-Mobile is still third in nationwide coverage – although the merger with Sprint certainly helped.
5G Coverage Map: Any city with 5G on Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile
Choosing a 5G plan
Fortunately, you no longer need to get a specific plan to only have 5G access. All three major carriers offer 5G on all of their plans – and you can even get 5G from prepaid providers these days. So since you don’t need to have a plan to have 5G, the question is instead which plans will provide you with the best value for your situation.
The price of a subscription can change dramatically depending on whether you are an individual or have a group subscription, and which features – outside of 5G – are most important to you.
For a single line, Verizon is the most expensive, starting at $ 70 a month. AT&T is $ 65 and T-Mobile is $ 60. Verizons Basic plan offers nothing but Sub-6 5G, but you have to spend an extra $ 10 per month to get mmWave. However, most people will switch to the second tier plans for their 5G phones, which are $ 80 a month on Verizon, $ 75 on AT&T, and $ 70 on T-Mobile.
For a group plan, for example with three lines, it is quite competitive. For those higher plans, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile come in at $ 55, $ 50, and $ 47 per line per month, respectively. Once the prices get that close, it’s the extras that make the difference. Each provider offers different levels of hotspot data, data usage before throttling, and offers such as included streaming service subscriptions. See which one suits you best and move on from there. You can also take a look at our list of 5G phone deals for possible carrier discounts.
Understanding 5G Speeds
I chose to emphasize speeds last for a reason: they’re just not as important as coverage and plan costs. All three providers offer fairly consistent 5G speeds, especially on their “rural” Sub-6 5G networks that you’ll be using most of the time. As long as you are in a relatively dense metro area, you can get good speeds on all three airlines.
As I mentioned above, it is the coverage and consistency that is far more important than peak download speeds. Don’t let the flashy ads about insane mmWave 5G speeds lure you in – that’s not important if you can’t get solid speeds everywhere. If you’re incredibly interested in which carriers offer the best speeds possible, you can check out independent testers like PCMag to get a general understanding of the networks. I’m just warning you not to overemphasize those speed numbers when choosing a carrier.