Understanding What Makes 5G Great
The 5G situation in the US is very confusing right now, but there’s one way to understand things clearly. For 5G to be much faster than 4G, it needs to run on wider channels. Think of them as broader lanes on the information superhighway.
Without those channels, 5G still helps carriers by increasing their capacity to serve more users with bigger service plans, as we saw in tests in Canada. But if you want performance, you need those wider channels.
Right now, of the heavily promoted forms of US 5G, only T-Mobile’s mid-band network and Verizon’s “UW” high-band network offer wider channels. The other forms of 5G in the US are reusing 4G channel sizes, which give them very 4G-like performance.
T-Mobile and AT&T both have very small amounts of high-band coverage that use larger channels, but they don’t heavily promote them and haven’t looked like they’ve been expanding them much.
All the phones sold by Verizon support its high-band network, but not all unlocked 5G phones do. If you’re looking for an unlocked 5G phone that supports all carriers, take a look at the Google Pixel 5, the iPhone 12 series, the Samsung Galaxy S21 series, and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.
Strike Up the Bands
5G in 2020 was disappointing, but we’re holding out hope for the C-band and for T-Mobile’s expansion in 2021. If you’re with T-Mobile, pretty much any current phone will support its 5G improvements throughout 2021. On Verizon and AT&T, you’ll get the best upcoming 5G speeds and coverage from phones that support C-band, but for now 4G will play the strongest part in your coverage and performance. We’ll keep you updated with all the latest changes.