The last big milestone for 5G in the US came last month when Apple announced its first 5G phones.. But when it comes to 5G in the US, the situation is still not completely clear. In the weeks leading up to Apple’s big reveal, CNET looked at how Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT & T’s various 5G networks performed in different states and cities across the country. While these tests are still ongoing, despite being more than a year into the new 5G era, performance on all three major US carriers is still a work in progress with experiences that can vary widely based on where you live. .
Here’s a quick look at what things stand for and what you might expect.
The country’s largest carrier, Verizon, is lagging behind rivals T-Mobile and AT&T when it comes to 5G rollout, despite being the first carrier to have phones available to consumers. Relying on millimeter wave, a high-frequency technology that offers incredibly fast speeds but has a severely limited range, the result is a network that works really fast, but you have to be on the right street corner in.
At Times Square in New York City, we were able to achieve download speeds of over 950 Mbps, allowing us to download high quality Avengers Endgame (about a 7.7 GB file) from Disney Plus in about 10 minutes. This was significantly faster than AT&T and T-Mobile, both of which got just over 100MB done in the same amount of time, despite having fast 5G connections of their own, although in AT & T’s case not a millimeter wave, at that location.
Verizon plans to expand millimeter-wave 5G to a total of 60 cities by the end of the year, and recently turned on a nationwide low-band version of 5G that will allow it to provide much better coverage and operate indoors (although exact will be largely comparable to 4G LTE). All 2020 5G phones from Verizon support both millimeter wave 5G and low band 5G, withwhen launched, as long as you have a compatible phone.
The millimeter-wave 5G, what Verizon calls “ultra-wideband,” is limited to some of its more expensive, recent unlimited plans like Play More, Do More, or Get More.
Now the country’s second largest wireless carrier thanks to its merger with Sprint, T-Mobile is actually the furthest when it comes to implementing 5G. It currently hasthrough its low-band network, although the speeds there are often compared to a strong 4G LTE connection. However, it also has a millimeter wave .
However, the biggest advantage for T-Mobile is in the midband 5G. This flavor can provide significant speed improvements compared to 4G LTE and low band 5G while covering a much wider area than millimeter waves and operating indoors. Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s technology president, previously told CNET that he expects the midband network to reach 100 million people by the end of 2020 and 200 million people by the end of 2021.
If I could connect to midband 5G in Northern New Jersey, download speeds reached over 200Mbps on Speedtest.net, although strange locations in New York City that once had Sprint midband 5G seemingly lost access to T-Mobile’s updated midband 5G based on speed and performance testing.
We also had some issues getting a 5G signal in rural Iowa, and when we did, we sometimes saw speeds on low-band 5G that were lower than Verizon’s 4G LTE.
The good news for T-Mobile users is that the carrier doesn’t need any special plans to tap into all the flavors of its 5G network.
AT&T currently has two active flavors of 5G, a nationwide low-band network, and a millimeter-wave offering available in parts of 36 cities. The nationwide low-band network currently covers more than 225 million people across the country and makes up the bulk of AT & T’s coverage, but like T-Mobile’s low-band network, offers an experience often comparable to a strong one. LTE connection.
The millimeter wave offering, what AT&T calls 5G Plus, can deliver some impressive speeds if you’re in the right place in the right city. In San Francisco, we saw speed tests yielding download speeds in excess of 735 Mbps and 812 Mbps, while in Gramercy Park in New York City, maximum download speeds reached 1.2 Gbps.
AT&T was less clear about its 5G expansion plans than its rivals. It has not announced any plans for new millimeter-wave cities or where it plans to roll out Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), a technology that will allow to split radio waves currently used with 4G for 5G, improving range and speed . It has already started offering thisand Florida, but additional locations have yet to be specified.
As for plans, AT & T’s 5G network requires you to be part of one of the carrier’s latest unlimited plans known as Unlimited Starter, Extra, or Elite.