That’s because Verizon’s 5G claims – that over 200 million people in 1,800 cities across the US can get 5G – are nonsense. In fact, the National Advertising Review Board told Verizon in September that it had to stop claiming it was “the most powerful 5G experience in America.”
In fact, Verizon is years away from delivering on its insane, fast-paced 5G promise. And I speak as a happy Verizon customer. You just can’t do it.
Her marketing mouth promises her 5G technology can’t hold up. Here’s why.
Verizon’s 5G high-speed pledges are based on millimeter waves (mmWave). This is what Verizon calls 5G Ultra Wideband. Regardless of the name, it runs on 24 and 28 GHz bands. Guess what? At these frequencies it has a range that is better measured in meters than miles. The range is much longer than with Wi-Fi than with 4G.
Aside from its limited range, it has no significant penetration. The walls of your house will block it. Leaves can block it. Even your window can stop it when it’s shut down. The only way to see 5G in your office is the same way you use WiFi: by populating it with access points.
What about 5G in your car? To keep your connection going, you’ll need a cell tower with a clear line of sight to your car every few blocks. Then each of these towers needs an ultra-fast optical internet connection to provide the bandwidth.
Neville Ray, CTO of T-Mobile, did it when he wrote mmWave 5G, “Will never scale much beyond the small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments.” Sure, he would like to sell you a different type of 5G, but he’s not wrong either. You’ll never see ultra-broadband, super-fast bandwidth on the highways, in the suburbs, and in the country.
So how does Verizon claim it can reach 200 million users? According to OpenSignal’s June 2020 5G report, T-Mobile users were connected to the 5G network 22.5% of the time. Sprint, now owned by T-Mobile. 14.1%; AT&T 10.3%. By a giant leap forward, Verizon’s users connected to their 5G network just 0.4% of the time.
Verizon uses marketing to paper over a technology hole. Verizon will use Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) to share its existing 4G spectrum with 5G. So, yes, there will be a much wider “5G” coverage, but a higher speed? Verizon’s VP Technology Heidi Hemmer recently admitted that DSS 5G speeds won’t be much different from 4G speeds.
What you will see in the forest with your T-Mobile iPhone 12 is low-band 5G. This works in the 600 MHz spectrum, also known as the old UHF TV channels 38-51. With this T-Mobile, hundreds of square miles can be covered at speeds of 4G LTE over 20 Mbit / s and real speeds of over 100 Mbit / s can be achieved.
In general, however, you can expect much greater coverage from T-Mobile, and that’s no mean feat for those of us who live in the countryside. But if you’re already getting good 4G where you live, you really don’t have to switch.
There is another true 5G variant, midband. It runs between 1 GHz and 6 GHz. It offers more coverage and penetration than mmWave. But it’s not widely used in the US either. T-Mobile is aggressively working to change this by using Sprint’s 2.5 GHz range. Outside of the US, when people talk about 5G they are usually talking about medium band at 3.5 GHz.
So what can you really expect in the US? I am citing PC Magazine’s September 2020 comprehensive speed test for major wireless networks:
AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have very different approaches to 5G. In short, AT&T 5G seems essentially worthless right now. T-Mobile 5G may be a big boost over 4G, but its speed is just what we’d expect from a good 4G network – it’s not a new experience. Verizon’s 5G is often mind-blowing, but very difficult to find.
In other words, if you want to buy an iPhone 12 to get faster speeds than ever from a smartphone,
You are wasting your money
. You’re also throwing your money away if you want one today to “future-proof” your phone for 5G. If 5G ever becomes really valuable – except for rural users – you’ll want to buy an iPhone 14 or 15.
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