5G Internet Providers

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About 5G Internet

The next phase of the internet is here, and it’s called 5G. Wireless network technology has improved to the point that it’s become a different entity entirely that extends far beyond cellular wireless. This new generation of technology emerges this year in 2018.

Fifth-generation (5G) wireless network technology promises faster speeds, wider availability, and the potential for greater competition among internet providers. With a 5G connection, your mobile connection should feel like your home Wi-Fi.

The 5G race

Provider 5G Launch Cities Projected 5G Speed
AT&T Live in 12 cities, expanding by mid-2019 Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and 6 more cities Up to 625 Mbps*
Sprint May 2019 Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City Up to 4.1 Gbps (4,100 Mbps)**
T-Mobile 2nd half of 2019 Unknown Up to 4.1 Gbps (4,100 Mbps)**
Verizon Live in 6 cities, expanding by end of 2019 Expanding to 30 more cities Up to 3.77 Gbps (3,770 Mbps)†

*Based on initial speed test results of AT&T 5G speeds posted to Reddit.
**Based on a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing that estimates 5G speeds of “New T-Mobile,” the name of a merged Sprint and T-Mobile (if the merger is approved).
†Based on Verizon’s mobile trial run.

 

What’s the difference between 4G and 5G?

The term 5G can include different types of connection technology, like fixed wireless or cellular networks, but it all uses the same protocol to improve performance. Essentially the biggest difference between 5G wireless networks and the currently popular 4G wireless networks is how the network nodes function.

With 4G, the cell towers (network nodes) are designed to reach as broad of an area as possible. Not only does this expand service area, but it also reduces the number of towers necessary to deliver service to a given area.

Companies are taking a different approach with 5G. In the simplest terms, 5G is like having high-powered Wi-Fi routers dispersed all over the city to function as the network nodes. So, your internet provider’s network will function more like your home network, but much faster.

How will internet providers use 5G?

While none of the 5G nodes can reach the total area of a cell tower, they can transmit at higher speeds and don’t necessarily require as much infrastructure. This means companies can install more of them to make up for the reduced area they cover.

After incremental improvements in technology over the past several years, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are ready to test this new internet configuration, and we’re all about to reap the rewards of that effort.

With 5G networks, your ISP won’t have to dig trenches and run cables or fiber-optic lines. A 5G node can beam a signal directly to your home. 5G technology may also allow mobile phone providers to compete with home internet providers.

Several huge brands in the telecom industry plan to expand or roll out 5G services in 2019. AT&T will continue to launch its 5G network in nine more cities, while Verizon expands its service to 30 additional cities.

T-Mobile and Sprint still seem to be banking on a potential merger of their respective brands. (Combined they might be called “New T-Mobile.”) But both Sprint and T-Mobile have outlined specific plans for launching 5G networks in the US too.

T-Mobile announced last year that it plans to launch 5G in 30 cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Las Vegas. And Sprint plans to kick-start its 5G network in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City in May 2019—with Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, and Washington, DC, to follow.

How fast is 5G really?

We have yet to see how fast 5G will be in the real world, but simulations and test runs peg 5G speeds at an average of about 50 Mbps, with max speeds up to 10,000 Mbps.

But how does this compare to the speeds we’re used to?

We compared the estimated average 5G speed with average speeds for 4G and 4G LTE—and with advertised speed ranges for DSL, cable, and fiber internet. Here’s how 5G speeds stack up.

5G speeds compared

  • 5G vs. 4G: 50 Mbps vs. 10 Mbps
  • 5G vs. 4G LTE: 50 Mbps vs. up to 50 Mbps
  • 5G vs. DSL: 50 Mbps vs. up to 100 Mbps
  • 5G vs. cable: 50 Mbps vs. up to 1,000 Mbps
  • 5G vs. fiber: 50 Mbps vs. up to 1,000 Mbps

5G has a wider range of frequency bands, so it gets zippier speeds.

The current technology, 4G LTE, relies on lower-frequency bands up to 6 GHz. And since the capacity of those frequencies is quickly used up by lots of different devices, the speed 4G LTE delivers is limited. That’s because the first rule of cellular technology is that the larger the frequency, the faster the data and the less chance of signal interference.

“5G handles frequencies between 30 and 300 GHz. That’s a much wider ‘hallway,’ so you’ll get faster speeds than 4G, even with other 5G devices nearby.”

Imagine trying to squeeze past a large group of people walking slowly down a narrow hallway. You’ll have more trouble getting past that group than you would dodging a single person. This is what it’s like when a lot of devices use the same set of frequencies.

On the other hand, 5G can handle radio frequencies between 30 and 300 GHz. That’s a much higher frequency and a much wider “hallway,” which means your 5G device will see zippier speeds—even when dozens of other devices are on the same 5G network.

Pro tip: 5G will reduce signal interference too.

With today’s tech, interference happens when your 4G device beams radio signals in different directions. But 5G uses beamforming to send your signal straight to your device. Beam us up, Scotty?

Better tech helps 5G deliver more data to more devices.

While 5G’s radio frequencies are larger than 4G’s, its wavelengths are shorter. This allows 5G to deliver data to about 1,000 more devices per meter than 4G can.

Shorter wavelengths also mean shorter antennas, which allows 5G network nodes to support close to 100 ports compared to 12 ports on 4G base stations. That means those network nodes can send and receive signals from a lot more devices at the same time, thanks to a technology called massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO).

P.S. Massive MIMO technology is why beamforming is so important for 5G. With all those antennas sending and receiving signals so close to each other, it becomes that much more important for each antenna and device to send its signals directionally.

Hundreds to thousands of network nodes amplify 5G range.

While 4G aims for efficiency by using network nodes—or cell towers—that reach as large of an area as possible to reduce the number of cell towers needed, 5G takes a different approach.

Instead of using a smaller number of cell towers to reach a large area, 5G uses hundreds to thousands of a different type of network node called small cells.

These small network nodes are portable and don’t require a lot of power. By installing a large number of them throughout a city, 5G providers can create a network that relays signals from network node to network node across a large area.

And because 5G antennas are smaller, those small cells can be placed in fewer in-your-face places, like on top of buildings or on street lights. (Say goodbye to those cell towers posing as fake trees. We won’t miss them.)

Pros

Improved Speeds

If 5G delivers on its projected speeds, it could revolutionize your internet experience. With 5G, you could seamlessly stream in 4K Ultra HD or download multiple gigabits of data in seconds instead of minutes.

More ISP Options

Because 5G infrastructure is less intrusive and potentially less expensive than other internet types like cable or fiber, it lowers the cost of entry into the marketplace. This means companies from other industries—like mobile phone companies, power companies, or even start-ups—could jump into the ISP business. That increased competition could drive prices down and service levels up.

Cons

Reduced Range

The trade-off for the speed provided by 5G is reduced range. A 5G node has a smaller service area than the current 4G wireless network nodes or any wireline nodes. ISPs can solve this problem by installing more 5G nodes, but availability will be limited until they do.

Weaker Signal

5G signals also have trouble penetrating barriers like hills, walls, or even vegetation. Signal boosters or reflectors can solve this problem, but ISPs will have to address these issues as they arise. These solutions can get expensive, so ISPs may invest in them only if they deem it financially viable.

Final Analysis

If you can get 5G, we highly recommend doing so. Once ISPs resolve the inevitable issues that come with new technology, 5G could make your home internet connection work seamlessly. Its speeds will virtually eliminate waiting on downloads—making it feel like the entire internet is stored on your hard drive.

Enter your zip code to find the fastest ISP in your area.

5G FAQs

What is 5G?

5G refers to internet or cellular networks operating in compliance with a new and specific set of standards. It stands for “fifth generation,” which means it’s the fifth generation of these specific network standards. Networks that meet the 5G standards will deliver faster internet speeds at lower infrastructure costs than those that don’t.

Most top-end cellular networks, like Verizon and AT&T, currently use 4G standards. 5G will improve those networks to the point that they could become viable wireless options for both cellular and home internet connections.

I also heard about 10G. What’s that?

First off, let’s get one thing straight: 5G and 10G can’t be compared. 5G is the fifth generation of network standards for cellular networks, while 10G refers to wired internet speeds of 10 gigabits per second (Gbps).

When internet providers say 10G, they’re talking about the speed they hope to reach in the near future. Right now, the maximum speed delivered is 2 Gbps from Xfinity—but this plan is extremely limited in availability. You’re much more likely to get speeds up to 1 Gbps from providers like Frontier FiOS, Verizon Fios, Xfinity, and AT&T Fiber.

Is 5G better than 4G?

Yes, 5G is better than 4G technology. This is due to a few key differences in frequency bands, wavelengths, and the way each one uses network nodes (cell towers).

How much faster is 5G over 4G?

Speeds for 5G are about 2,000% faster than 4G speeds, according to a recent study by Qualcomm.

The Qualcomm study simulated a 5G network in both Frankfurt, Germany, and San Francisco, California. Both simulations sought to replicate real-world situations that future 5G users might encounter, including geography, different devices, and variations in network connectivity and traffic.

The San Francisco simulation saw:

  • Download speeds of 1.4 Gbps for the median 5G user compared to 71 Mbps for the median 4G user.
  • Latency down to 4.9 ms on the 5G network versus 115 ms on the 4G network.

What’s the difference between 5G and fixed wireless?

The terms “5G” and “fixed wireless” became linked because the technologies for both continue to expand simultaneously, but they refer to different things.

Fixed wireless is a type of network connection, and 5G is a standard for a network. So, while fixed wireless connections can connect to 5G networks, not all fixed wireless is 5G and not all 5G is fixed wireless.

For more about the differences between 5G, fixed wireless, and other wireless internet connections, see our page about wireless internet providers.

Which brands offer 5G internet service?

All four major US wireless providers—AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon—have plans to offer 5G internet service. Currently, only AT&T and Verizon have 5G networks live.

Here’s how each major wireless brand plans to roll out its next-gen network.

Verizon’s road to 5G

Verizon, which claims to be the first wireless provider to release 5G technology, launched its 5G home internet network in October 2018. This first take on 5G home internet took place in Houston, TX; Indianapolis, IN; Los Angeles, CA; and Sacramento, CA.

But critics argue that Verizon’s claim of “first on 5G” is flawed since its 5G home internet network doesn’t use the approved 5G technology standard of 5G NR. Instead it used 5G TF standards, which means its 5G home internet equipment will eventually need to be updated to 5G NR–compliant equipment.

Still, Verizon keeps marching forward in the race to 5G. It rolled out its 5G Ultra Wideband network in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis on April 3, 2019. But watch out before you sign up—Verizon’s 5G will cost you $10 extra on top of the cost for an unlimited plan. (But the first three months of 5G are free.)

AT&T’s road to 5G

AT&T got itself into trouble with the rest of the wireless community when it changed the 4G LTE symbol on its phones to 5G E. But whether you’re on AT&T’s side or not in that argument, there’s no arguing that this telecom giant isn’t making strides similar to Verizon’s in terms of rolling out 5G. (But only time will tell if it’s able to pass Verizon in the 5G race.)

As of now, AT&T claims it has a leg up on Verizon and is the “only US carrier that has a standards-based mobile 5G network live in parts of a dozen cities.” Those cities include Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; and more.

AT&T also plans to roll out its 5G network in more cities in 2019, bringing the total to 21 cities. Those include Chicago, IL; Las Vegas, NV; Minneapolis, MN; Nashville, TN; and more.

Sprint’s road to 5G

Not to be outdone, Sprint is working to launch its mobile 5G network some time in early 2019. It’s targeting nine cities to be the first to have Sprint 5G: Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; and more.

Plus, Sprint is working closely with LG to put the first 5G smartphone in the US on shelves. And it’s also partnering with HTC to bring a 5G smart hub and another 5G smartphone from Samsung to the US.

T-Mobile’s road to 5G

As of the Mobile World Conference (MWC) 2019, T-Mobile doesn’t expect its 5G network to launch until later in the year. This may be due to the continued discussion over whether the T-Mobile and Sprint merger will be approved. But it likely also has to do with the fact that there are no 5G smartphones compatible with the 600 MHz radio frequency T-Mobile’s 5G network will use.

That said, T-Mobile has still gone to great lengths to begin marketing its 5G network under the name “New T-Mobile.” This includes claims that its 5G network will be the highest capacity network in US history by 2024.

How long before 5G is available?

Technically 5G is already available in certain parts of the US, but if you’re curious how this new technology will continue to roll out, here’s a quick look at some of the latest updates.

US 5G launch timeline

Provider Expected date Launching in
AT&T Live in 12 cities, expanding by mid-2019 Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose
Sprint May 2019 Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City
T-Mobile Late 2019 Unknown
Verizon Live in 6 cities, expanding by late 2019 30 cities*

Data effective 4/17/2019.

*Verizon hasn’t announced which cities are on the shortlist for 5G after Chicago and Minneapolis.

Is 5G available near me?

Eventually, 5G should be available near you. Right now, the plan is for it to be available in most cities, but that’s still at least a year or two away.

However, if you live in Houston, Sacramento, Indianapolis, or Los Angeles, you can try Verizon’s 5G Home internet, while those in Chicago and Minneapolis can give its 5G cellular network a go.

And if you live in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, San Antonio, or Waco, you might be lucky enough to grab a signal from AT&T’s 5G network right now. (Although we’re still questioning whether it’s truly 5G.)

If you don’t live in one of these cities but want faster internet service, enter your ZIP code to find the fastest ISP in your area.

What 5G phones are available now?

As of April 2019, the only 5G phone available is the Motorola Moto z3 with a 5G Moto Mod from Verizon. But 2019 is shaping up to be a year full of 5G releases, so keep your eyes peeled for these 5G phones and devices in the coming months.

Upcoming 5G phones and devices

Phone Expected release date Expected price
HTC 5G Hub By mid-2019 on Sprint Unknown
Huawei Mate X Likely won’t release in the US $2,110
LG V50 ThinQ 5G By mid-2019 on Sprint; late 2019 on Verizon Unknown
Motorola Moto z3 + 5G Moto Mod* Available now Moto z3 starts at $480; Moto Mod costs $199.99
NETGEAR Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot Late 2019 on AT&T Unknown
Nokia 2019 Unknown
OnePlus (prototype) 2019 Under $1,000
Oppo (prototype) Likely won’t release in the US Unknown
Samsung Galaxy Fold 5G Unknown Starts at $1,980
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G By mid-2019 on Verizon, then on AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile $1,000–$1,980
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G Likely won’t release in the US $680
ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G Unknown US release date Unknown

*The Moto z3 is available now, but you’ll need to attach a Moto Mod to it to connect to Verizon’s 5G network.

Do I need a 5G Wi-Fi extender or router?

At this time, no, we don’t think you need a 5G Wi-Fi extender or router. This is because 5G isn’t yet widely available in the US and no 5G equipment is currently for sale.

A few different 5G modems and routers are currently in development: the D-Link 5G NR Enhanced Gateway, the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 and X55 5G modems, and the Samsung Exynos Modem 5100.

But these modems will act like mobile hotspots or be used in mobile hotspots—so you’ll need to connect to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon’s 5G network to get those fast speeds in your home.

We should also point out that 5G and 5 GHz aren’t the same thing.

The term “5G” stands for the fifth generation of the cellular network your cellphone uses. The term “5 GHz” is the wireless spectrum your router connects to—often you’ll see routers connect to the 2.4 GHz or both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrums.

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