5G is the fifth generation in wireless technology and is the next big thing to hit the market in a long time. 5G will change the way you connect with the world around you, think bigger than faster download speeds, it’s smart cities, autonomous cars, life-saving medical advances- it’s big. You can expect to see speeds up to 20 Gbps and latency of 1 millisecond, that’s about twenty times faster than our current 4G networks. Everyone is waiting anxiously to get their hands on 5G and we can’t blame them, but depending on where you live, you may have to wait a while.
5G has already started to roll out in major cities across the U.S., but these are more beta tests than the actual finished product. In addition, in all of its 5G glory, there are some setbacks that carriers have to work through to cover the entire nation in 5G. 5G is so incredible because it functions on a high-band frequency unused by 4G LTE, which uses frequencies on low and mid-band spectrums. The frequency is so powerful and concentrated, it’s able to deliver that mind-blowing fast speed and low latency, but over a limited distance. Unlike frequencies on the low and mid-band spectrums, they can travel fairly far, but performance degrades the farther the signal travels. For 5G blanketed coverage, carriers will have to work to build small cells (miniature cell towers) and convert existing infrastructures to be 5G capable. This of course takes time, money, and government approval from national to local levels.
Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have already released 5G hot spots in certain cities during 2019 and will begin even bigger rollouts in 2020. So far, each carrier has been focused on metro-based areas since the buildout to very rural areas will be more extensive. The FCC’s goal is to cover 90% of the population with 5G in the next five years. But the biggest question, “when is 5G coming to me?” let us tell you, broken down by carrier.
Verizon is currently available in 30 cities with four 5G capable phones and a 5G hotspot. Verizon will utilize a mmWave technology that will access a higher frequency band above 28 GHz and 39 GHz. Since Verizon plans to use this high-band spectrum for their 5G networks, they’ll need to build-out small cells for mass 5G coverage. This will be effective for metro areas and will have a different rollout for suburban and rural areas. For the next several years, Verizon’s 5G service will piggyback off it’s existing 4G network using low and medium band spectrums.
Cities with Verizon 5G Ultra-Wideband coverage are:
- Arkansas: Little Rock
- Arizona: Phoenix
- California: Los Angeles
- Colorado: Denver
- Florida: Miami, Panama City
- Georgia: Atlanta
- Iowa: Des Moines
- Idaho: Boise
- Illinois: Chicago, Indianapolis
- Indiana: Sioux Falls
- Michigan: Detroit, Grand Rapids
- Minnesota: Minneapolis, St. Paul
- Missouri: Kansas City
- North Carolina: Charlotte, Greensboro
- Nebraska: Omaha
- New Jersey: Hoboken
- New York: New York City
- Ohio: Cincinnati, Cleveland
- Rhode Island: Providence
- Tennessee: Memphis
- Texas: Dallas, Houston
- Utah: Salt Lake City
- Virginia: Hampton Roads
- Washington: Spokane
- Washington D.C.
For a full coverage map of Verizon’s 5G network, click here.
AT&T is currently available in 35 cities with two devices with 5G capabilities. Like Verizon, AT&T will use a mmWave technology on the high-band spectrum above 24 GHz in addition to low and medium band spectrum frequencies. AT&T will also need to build out small cells to utilize this high-band spectrum and will use their existing fiber network as the backbone of their entire 5G network.
Cities with AT&T 5G coverage are:
- Alabama: Birmingham, Huntsville
- Arizona: Gila
- California: Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Madera County, Modesto, Mono County, Obispo, Oxnard, Santa Barbara, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Luis, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Vallejo
- Colorado: Denver
- Connecticut: Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven
- Delaware: Kent County, Wilmington
- Georgia: Albany, Athens, Chattooga County, Hancock County, Liberty, Macon, Whitfield County, Worth
- Illinois: Washington County
- Indiana: Brown County, Indianapolis
- Kansas: Topeka, Wichita
- Kentucky: Lexington-Fayette, Louisville
- Massachusetts: Boston, New Bedford, Worcester
- Maryland: Baltimore, Frederick
- Michigan: Detroit, Kalamazoo, Newaygo
- Missouri: Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis
- Montana: Beaverhead County, Lincoln County
- New Jersey: Atlantic City, Hunterdon County, Long Branch, New Brunswick, Ocean County, Sussex County, Trenton
- New Mexico: Las Cruces
- Nevada: Las Vegas, Reno, Storey County
- New York: Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, New York, Orange County, Otsego County, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica-Rome
- Ohio: Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Hamilton, Hancock County, Ross County, Sandusky County, Springfield, Tuscarawas County
- Oregon: Portland, Salem
- Pennsylvania: Allentown, Harrisburg, Lancaster, North East, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, State College, York
- Rhode Island: Providence
- Utah: Provo
- Virginia: Madison County
- Wisconsin: Milwaukee
- Washington: Spokane
- West Virginia: Raleigh County
For a full coverage map of AT&T’s 5G network, click here.
*If you’re a current AT&T customer and have seen ‘5GE’ displayed on your phone, this does not mean you have 5G. 5GE stands for ‘5G Evolution’ and is actually 4G LTE Advanced, so it’s a technology that is faster than your average 4G speed, just marketed as 5G.
T-Mobile and Sprint
As of October 2019, the FCC has approved the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile to build out a competitive 5G network with the merger finalizing in April of 2020.
Sprint has used the mid-band spectrum with frequencies of 2.5 GHz, which is also used for their current 4G LTE service. T-Mobile has a similar strategy and will use the 600 MHz spectrum. Because both companies plan on building their 5G networks on existing cell towers, their 5G rollout will be quicker than Verizon and AT&T.
Their 5G network will utilize the low and mid-band spectrum so while it won’t be as fast as the AT&T and Verizon networks initially because they will be using the new mmWave technology, T-Mobile’s network will deliver improved speeds and latency. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop there, T-Mobile plans to continue to build on a 28 GHz mmwave spectrum and existing 2.1 GHz spectrum, making them competitive with AT&T and Verizon.
Here’s a map of T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G coverage on the sub-600Mz spectrum.
For a more detailed view of coverage in your area, visit T-Mobile’s website.
T-Mobile does have mmWave coverage in just a handful of cities, they are: Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York City.
There’s a name you haven’t seen in the wireless world yet but get ready! As T-Mobile and Sprint merged, there was a need for a fourth wireless competitor to keep the market fair and competitive for consumers…enter DISH Network.
As of July 2020, DISH Network took ownership of Sprint’s prepaid wireless business that includes Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile. DISH will invest over $10 billion in building out their standalone 5G network and is required to have 5G coverage that is able to serve 70% of the U.S. by June of 2023. We’re still unsure of which cities DISH’s new 5G network will debut first but will update as the news rolls out.
If you’re looking for 5G outside the U.S., it’s already begun to blanket other countries.
- Canada: 2020
- Mexico: 2020
- Puerto Rico: 2019
- Central America: Late 2019- 2020
- Asia: 5G is currently available in a handful of areas, widespread coverage expected in 2020.
- Africa: Trial testing started in 2018, no firm announcements of a full 5G release yet.
- Europe: 5G networks are live in some countries and will continue to expand in 2019 and 2020.
- Australia: Started deployments in 2018 and will continue throughout 2020.
As quick as most Americans would like 5G to rollout, unless you live in a major metro area or populated city, it’s unlikely you’ll see any 5G connections until after 2020. The FCC isn’t immune to the need for better internet connection in very rural areas of the U.S. and they’re pressuring the major carriers for rural coverage. Each carrier’s rollout will be dependent on population, infrastructure, and what makes fiscal sense due to the high costs associated with building out a 5G network. So unsurprisingly, they will prioritize locations that will yield the best returns. There is a sense of urgency to bring 5G to rural areas though, because of the super-fast speeds and low latency of 5G, it will bring about massive changes to agriculture and farming thanks to the advancement in the Internet of Things (IoT). So, think equipment being able to communicate with each other, making everything more effective and efficient.
Fear not though if you live in a suburban or rural area, just because 5G isn’t available in your area just yet, doesn’t mean you won’t see improved speeds or latency. You’ll still see major improvements in your day-to-day connections! Just like back in 2010 when 4G first emerged into the market, it will take 5G some time to make it’s away across the U.S., but it’s coming.