5G Internet Providers

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About 5G wireless and home internet

So long, 4G. The next major upgrade to cell phone networks is here, and it’s 5G. This newest network standard will bring faster speeds that have been projected to be as high as 10,000 Mbps. That’s beyond fast, especially when you consider the fastest internet plans available today top out at 2,000 Mbps. But the catch is most 5G speeds aren’t that fast yet—the networks are still in development.

Fifth-generation (5G) wireless network technology promises faster speeds, lower latency, and the potential for greater competition among internet providers. With a 5G connection, your mobile connection should feel like your home Wi-Fi—and in most cases, it’ll be a lot faster than a home connection.

 

Will everyone get the fastest speeds?

Unfortunately, no. The fastest speeds promised from 5G are possible only with millimeter-wave technology, which can cover only short distances in concentrated areas like a park in Chicago or a football stadium in Atlanta. This technology also struggles to pass through some walls and can be inhibited by bad weather, making it difficult to deploy over large geographical areas.

Still, the possibilities are exciting. Although it will take a long time to roll out a nationwide millimeter-wave network, access to speeds that fast could mean big things for hospitals and emergency responders.

It could also be huge for self-driving cars. 5G connections offer latency rates of 1 millisecond, making the communication delay between devices virtually nonexistent. That means a future with self-driving cars that monitor nearby vehicles to create a crash-free drive at speeds up to 200 miles per hour could very well be possible.

 

What about companies who promise a nationwide 5G network in 2020?

The trick is not all 5G networks are created equal: there is low-band, mid-band, and high-band 5G, all of which offer different speeds. The confusing part is everyone calls their network 5G—no matter which band it actually falls in.

The kind of 5G that most networks are promising and delivering on a mass scale (looking at you, T-Mobile) is actually only slightly faster than 4G with less lag. Carriers like T-Mobile have put a special emphasis on deploying this lower-quality 5G network because it’s less expensive than the 5G technology that brings mind-blowing speeds but is still better than what people have on their phones now. (Plus, they can make you buy a new 5G-compatible phone for it too.)

So, how can you tell which quality of 5G you’re getting? Run an internet speed test on your phone, and compare it to the chart below.

5G cellular race

Provider 5G launch Cities Projected 5G speed
AT&T Live in 35 cities

Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, King of Prussia, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Menlo Park, Miami, Miami Gardens, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, Ocean City, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Redwood City, San Antonio, San Bruno, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Waco, and West Hollywood (nationwide sometime in 2020)

Up to 1.5 Gbps (1,500 Mbps)*
Sprint Live in 9 cities Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, DC Up to 4.1 Gbps (4,100 Mbps)**
T-Mobile Live in 5,000 cities First nationwide 5G network offering coverage to over 200 million people Up to 4.1 Gbps (4,100 Mbps)**
Verizon Live in 34 cities and 13 NFL stadiums

Currently available in: Atlanta, Boise, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Des Moines, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Greensboro, Hampton Roads, Hoboken, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Minneapolis, New York City, Omaha, Panama City, Phoenix, Providence, Salt Lake City, Sioux Falls, Spokane, St. Paul, and Washington, DC

Expanding soon into: San Diego (nationwide by 2020)

Up to 10 Gbps (10,000 Mbps)

*Based on network projections from AT&T.

**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 (pending the merger).

Based on Verizon’s projected network capabilities

5G home internet race

Where can I get 5G home internet?

Verizon was the first to launch 5G home internet (5G Home) with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps. Vivint Internet launched a similar service to select parts of the Salt Lake City metro area, promising the same speeds of 1,000 Mbps. T-Mobile also promised a 5G-based home network by 2024 that would offer better internet speeds for rural areas.

Although 5G technology is rolling out for both cellular and home internet networks, 5G cellular is further ahead in development than 5G home internet. You will hear more about 5G home internet in the future, but it’s an anomaly for now.

 

Provider 5G launch Cities Projected 5G speed
Verizon Live in 5 cities Los Angeles, Sacramento, Houston, Indianapolis, and Chicago Up to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps)*
Vivint Internet Live in 1 city Salt Lake City Up to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps)**

*Based on Verizon’s estimates
**Based on projections from Vivint Internet

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

Essentially the biggest difference between 5G and 4G wireless networks is how the network nodes function. 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.

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.

Although 5G can be more than 100 times faster than 4G, it does have its limitations. The kind of 5G signals that produce speeds 100 times faster than 4G don’t travel as far as 4G. So it takes hundreds of small nodes sprinkled throughout the city to provide that kind of 5G coverage, instead of a few dozen cell phone towers.

In the simplest terms, superfast 5G is like having high-powered Wi-Fi routers dispersed all over the city to function as the network nodes. But low-band and mid-band 5G are delivered via the same networks as 4G but with updated technology that creates faster speeds and less latency.

How will internet providers use 5G?

While 5G nodes that create the fastest speeds cover a much smaller area than cell towers, they can transmit at higher speeds and don’t necessarily require as much infrastructure. This means companies must install more of them to make up for the reduced area they cover.

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, which is something we’re already seeing with Verizon 5G Home.

Thanks to its incredible low latency of 1 millisecond, 5G is also paving the way into a future with new possibilities that go beyond faster speeds. Several companies are already recognizing what this new technology will do and investing in it, particularly companies like Qualcomm, which is working to develop faster 5G chips for phones. 5G is also expected to drastically reduce healthcare costs through improved efficiency such as expanding telemedicine and improving VR capabilities.

All four major carriers have rolled out 5G service in most major metro areas, and T-Mobile claims to have America’s first nationwide 5G network (although it’s also the slowest 5G network). Although 5G service and phones are ramping up quickly, most experts predict that it will take until 2025 for 5G to become mainstream in the US.

How fast is 5G really?

5G speeds are expected to top out at 10,000 Mbps (10 Gbps), making it 100 times faster than the top 4G speed. But speeds that fast aren’t available everywhere 5G is available.

Like we said earlier, most of the 5G that’s widely available will tap out somewhere between 600 Mbps and 1,000 Mbps, which is still plenty fast but nowhere near the theoretical limit of 5G (10,000 Mbps) that we’ve been promised. As with most technology, these speeds will keep going up as access expands.

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

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

How much faster will 5G be than 4G, DSL, cable, and fiber?

  • 5G vs. 4G: 1,000 Mbps vs. 100 Mbps
  • 5G vs. DSL: 1,000 Mbps vs. 100 Mbps
  • 5G vs. cable: 1,000 Mbps vs. 500 Mbps
  • 5G vs. fiber: 1,000 Mbps vs. 1,000 Mbps

*Speeds based on approximate average speeds for each provider type.

Why is 5G faster than 4G?

5G can handle radio frequencies between 28 and 39 GHz (28,000 to 39,000 MHz), depending on the provider. It has a wider range of frequency bands, so it gets zippier speeds than 4G. The current 4G technology relies on lower-frequency bands up to 6 GHz (6,000 MHz). And since the capacity of those frequencies is quickly used up by lots of different devices, the speeds 4G delivers are limited.

“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 to transfer data.

Since 5G offers a much higher frequency and a much wider “hallway,” 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.

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).

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.

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 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.)

However, the strength of 5G is also a weakness. The need for multiple network nodes is what prevents the fastest 5G speeds from expanding beyond major cities and stadiums. It’s just not financially practical to install and maintain the amount of nodes necessary to provide the fastest 5G speeds nationwide, which is why you’ll see most available 5G speeds top out at just over 1,000 Mbps.

Additionally, all of those towers blasting high-frequency waves 24/7 has some scientists concerned about the impact of 5G on humans and the environment. They argue that this new technology needs to be tested more before we subject residents to it on a grand scale.

Pros

Improved speeds

When 5G delivers true 5G speeds, it revolutionizes your internet experience. With 5G, you can seamlessly stream in 4K Ultra HD or download multiple gigabits of data in seconds instead of minutes.

More ISP options

5G technology 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 of the fastest 5G speeds will be limited until they do.

Weaker signal

5G signals also have trouble penetrating barriers like hills, walls, snow, rain, and vegetation. The best signals are outside, under a 5G pole, which isn’t always the ideal place to use your phone. 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: Will 5G replace my internet connection?

If you can get 5G, we highly recommend upgrading to a 5G-capable cellular device and enjoying the benefits. Whether or not you decide to replace your internet connection with it depends on what kind of data plan you have. For now, we’d recommend keeping your home internet plan and phone plan separate. 5G is still in the earlier stages of development, and 5G-capable devices are just beginning to become available.

It took nearly 10 years to roll out 4G nationwide, and 5G will follow a similar pattern. You can probably expect 5G coverage in most areas of the country by 2025. Once ISPs resolve the inevitable issues that come with new technology, 5G could make your home internet connection work seamlessly—especially if more providers offer plans similar to Verizon 5G Home. Its speeds will virtually eliminate waiting on downloads, making it feel like the entire internet is stored on your hard drive. Until then, better to stick with an established home internet provider.

Need an internet connection to hold you over until 5G comes to your city? Enter your ZIP code to find the fastest provider in your area.

5G FAQ

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 with lower latency than ever before.

All major cellular networks, like Verizon and AT&T, are systematically upgrading 4G networks to 5G across the country, a process that will take five or more years.

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 Verizon Fios, Xfinity, CenturyLink, 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 currently more than 10 times faster than 4G, although a study by Qualcomm suggests 5G could deliver speeds significantly faster than that once the entire network is deployed.

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. Here’s what the study found:

  • Median download speeds increased from 71 Mbps to 1.4 Gbps (1,400 Mbps).
  • Latency went down to 4.9 ms from 115 ms.
  • Video quality increased from 2K to 8K and beyond.

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, most people who talk about 5G are referring to the wireless network and not a fixed wireless ISP.

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—offer 5G internet service in select metro areas. T-Mobile claims to have America’s first nationwide 5G network, but its 5G speeds are generally slower than those promised by Verizon.

How long before 5G is available nationwide?

T-Mobile has America’s first nationwide 5G network, but the speeds are nowhere near what is possible with 5G. It seems they took the quick-and-dirty approach to getting a 5G network that’s better than 4G but not quite at the caliber that we’ve seen from cities where more robust 5G networks have deployed. It’s likely that it’ll take until at least 2025 for full-fledged 5G coverage to expand all over the US.

If you don’t live in a 5G city but want faster internet service, enter your ZIP code to find the fastest ISP in your area.

 

What 5G phones are available now?

There are many 5G phones available, including the Motorola Moto z3 with a 5G Moto Mod from Verizon. The device we haven’t seen yet is a 5G iPhone, which we hope to see in late 2020.

Upcoming 5G phones and devices

Phone Expected Price
HTC 5G Hub $600
Huawei Mate X $2,110
LG V50 ThinQ 5G $999.99
Motorola Moto z3 + 5G Moto Mod* Moto z3 starts at $480; Moto Mod costs $199.99
NETGEAR Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot $249.99
OnePlus (prototype) Under $1,000
Oppo (prototype) $1,499
Samsung Galaxy Fold 5G Starts at $1,980
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G $1,000–$1,980
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G $680
ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G Starts at $879.99

*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?

No, we don’t think most people need a 5G Wi-Fi extender or router yet, although it might be a good investment for people living near 5G nodes. This is because 5G isn’t yet widely available in the US.

 

A few different 5G modems and routers are currently in development, including 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 cell phone 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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