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 called 5G. Wireless 5G network technology is more than 10 times faster than 4G LTE data. The catch is that companies need to build whole new networks to deliver it. The last major update to 4G took about 10 years to roll out, and 5G will be about the same. This new generation of technology emerged in 2018 and will be slowly rolling out over the next five years.

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 some cases, it’ll be better than a home connection.

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

The 5G cellular race

Provider 5G Launch Cities Projected 5G Speed
AT&T Live in 21 cities and growing Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Raleigh, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Waco Up to 625 Mbps*
Sprint Live in 9 cities and growing Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. Up to 4.1 Gbps (4,100 Mbps)**
T-Mobile Live in 6 cities and growing Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York Up to 4.1 Gbps (4,100 Mbps)**
Verizon Live in 13 cities and 13 NFL stadiums and growing

Currently available in: Atlanta, Boise, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New York City, Panama City, Phoenix, Providence, St. Paul, and Washington, D.C.

Expanding soon into: Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, San Diego, and Salt Lake City

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.

 

The 5G home internet race

Provider 5G Launch Cities Projected 5G Speed
Verizon Live in 4 cities Los Angeles, Sacramento, Houston, Indianapolis Up to 300 Mbps
Vivint Internet Live in 1 city Salt Lake City Up to 100 Mbps

*

 

Although 5G technology is rolling out for both cellular and home internet networks, 5G cellular is further ahead of 5G home internet. Verizon was the first to launch 5G home internet with speeds up to 300 Mbps. Vivint Internet recently launched a similar service to select parts of the Salt Lake City metro area. You will hear more about 5G home internet in the future.

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.

Although 5G can be more than 10 times faster than 4G, it does have its limitations. 5G signals don’t travel as far as 4G. So it takes hundreds of small nodes sprinkled throughout the city to provide 5G coverage, instead of a few dozen cell phone towers. 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 5G nodes 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.

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.

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. 5G’s low latency could enable self-driving cars that travel 200 miles per hour and avoid accidents by tracking vehicles in realtime. It also could give us augmented reality gaming on our mobile phones.

All four major carriers have rolled out 5G service in some major metro areas. Coverage is still very limited and spotty even in coverage areas. Most experts predict that it will take until 2025 for 5G to go mainstream in the US, when about half of all wireless connections will be 5G.

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.

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.

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 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

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

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, 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

If you can get 5G, we highly recommend upgrading to a 5G capable device and enjoying the benefits. If 5G isn’t available in your area, you probably don’t need to get a 5G phone quite yet. 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. Its speeds will virtually eliminate waiting on downloads—making it feel like the entire internet is stored on your hard drive.

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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 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 currently more than 10% faster than 4G LTE, although a study by Qualcomm suggests 5G could deliver up to 2,000% faster speeds.

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, 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.

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

How long before 5G is available nationwide?

5G is available in select metro areas, but it’ll take until at least 2025 for 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
Nokia $699 (but this phone only works in the UK right now)
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?

At this time, no, we don’t think most people need a 5G Wi-Fi extender or router, 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: 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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