Verizon has hit its 5G coverage goal for 2019, reaching 31 cities with ultra-wideband service. The company most recently rolled out 5G in Cleveland, Columbus, and Hampton Roads, Va., as well as John Glenn Columbus International.
As we’ve come to know, a lot of this is marketing spin from the carriers to make them seem like the true leader in 5G, when in reality none is decidedly better than the rest.
Fast but impractical 5G — The ultra-wideband 5G that Verizon is touting here has a very short range and isn’t good at passing through walls. CNET and other outlets have tested out the leading 5G networks and found you need to be standing practically right beside an antenna to get blazing speeds.
So while you can theoretically access 5G in 31 cities on Verizon, it’ll be under very limited circumstances that aren’t practical. Carriers will have to install many more 5G cells to provide continuous coverage.
Carriers love spin — T-Mobile for its part has touted that its own 5G network reaches 200 million people across the United States, but that service is more like LTE+ than true 5G. The company is relying heavily on mid-band spectrum for its network, which has been found to provide speeds 20 percent faster than LTE on average. It’s still good, but it’s not what people are expecting from 5G. Like Verizon, T-Mobile’s “true” 5G network is limited to a few cities.
AT&T was sued by Sprint back in April for using a “5G E” label on its phones to similarly denote service that is only mildly faster than LTE, so this deceptive marketing isn’t underheard of. Going into 2020 we can expect a patchwork of slow and fast 5G from all the major carriers as new phones become available and customers seek the latest and greatest. The transition to a hot new technology like 5G presents an opportunity for carriers to steal away customers.