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 brings faster speeds, lower latency, and the possibility for massive tech innovation and greater connectivity in rural areas and remote parts of the United States.
As it gets off the ground, 5G has been projected to hit max speeds 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.
With a 5G connection, your mobile connection should feel like your home Wi-Fi—and in most cases, it may be faster than a home connection. In due time, it could serve as a widespread alternative to more common types of home internet, like fiber and cable.
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 opens the door for a new horizon of possibilities—picture “smart factories” run with AI machine-learning technology, videoconferencing aided by VR headsets, and self-driving cars capable of avoiding collisions with other vehicles.
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.
Right now, most networks are prioritizing low- and mid-band forms of 5G, which is slightly faster than 4G and has less lag. T-Mobile (which recently merged with Sprint) has built the largest 5G network in the country using mid- and low-band radio frequencies that are shared with 4G.
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||States and cities||Max 5G speed|
|AT&T||Available in 190 markets||Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington, DC; Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia||Up to 1.5 Gbps (1,500 Mbps)*|
|Sprint||Live in 14 cities||Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Long Island; Union City, Paterson, Lodi, East Orange (New Jersey); Phoenix, and Washington, DC||213 Mbps on average**|
|T-Mobile||Available in 5,000 cities and towns||Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Washington, DC; Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts||Up to 600 Mbps†|
|Verizon||5G Ultra Wideband available 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||Up to 953 Mbps (and 1.45 Gbps with carrier aggregation)‡|
*Based on network projections from AT&T.
**Based on Sprint testing with results from Ookla Speedtest Intelligence.
†Based on a T-Mobile announcement reporting tests of its 2.5 GHz–band 5G network in Philadelphia.
‡Based on Verizon’s reported network capabilities
5G home internet race
Does 5G replace home internet?
5G networks are mostly limited to cellular service. You can get it on your phone plan in select cities, but it’s not as common yet to get it as an option for home internet.
But many cell providers have 5G home internet plans in the works. Verizon launched a 5G home internet service in a handful of cities. T-Mobile is making plans to launch its own 5G home internet network. And smaller providers have also gotten in on the action.
If you can access 5G internet for your home, the services offer essentially the same speeds as what you can get from fiber or cable internet. It may be wise to give it some time to see how the networks shape up, but this could be a great option if the only other internet in your area is DSL or satellite—both of which have slower speeds.
In the meantime, use your 5G phone as a mobile hotspot to provide a Wi-Fi signal for laptops, smart TVs, and other devices. Just make sure hotspot data is part of your plan.
Where can I get 5G home internet?
Verizon offers its 5G Home internet service in limited parts of Chicago, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Houston, and Indianapolis.
Speeds range from an average of 300 Mbps to a top speed of up to 940 Mbps. Verizon is offering all sorts of perks to garner customer interest—including no costs on installation or equipment and the first three months of service for free.
The Utah–based provider Vivint Internet also offers a fixed-wireless home internet service that runs on a 5G network. It’s available in select parts of Salt Lake City, Utah’s capital. It delivers either 100 Mbps or 1,000 Mbps download speeds—depending on your plan and the spectrum frequency it taps into.
T-Mobile has also announced that it will launch a 5G-based home network by 2024. The plan is to extend coverage to previously underserved rural areas across the United States.
It’s clear that it will be a while before 5G home internet is widely available across the United States. But keep your eyes open because more 5G home internet options could be rolling out soon enough—and with it, new possibilities for Wi-Fi as we know it.
|Provider||5G available||Cities||Projected 5G speed|
|Verizon 5G Home||Available in 5 cities||Los Angeles, Sacramento, Houston, Indianapolis, and Chicago||Up to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps)*|
|Vivint Internet||Available 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?
Just like 4G, 5G relies on radio signals to carry data to your phone. But 5G delivers data at a much greater capacity than 4G because it uses a whole new spectrum of radio frequencies that previously weren’t licensed for commercial purposes. It also incorporates new infrastructure and technology, which transmit signals to our devices with much greater efficiency and precision.
4G relied on cell towers (network nodes) to beam massive signals that reach as broad of an area as possible. The most advanced version of 5G, on the other hand, relies on millimeter-wave frequencies that carry tons more data but have a much shorter range. So 5G networks are introducing a new type of cell tower known as a “small cell,” which keeps those millimeter-wave signals strong over shorter distances.
The plan is to install many “small cells” throughout urban areas to widen the reach of advanced 5G coverage. In the meantime, wireless companies are building up low- and mid-band versions of 5G. These lower-tier types of 5G operate on some of the same frequencies as 4G. It’s not as fast, but it has the same wide range, so people in rural areas and remote corners of the United States will be able to enjoy 5G coverage as well.
Another big difference between 4G and 5G is the level of interference going on with wireless signals. 4G cell towers typically beam radio signals without having a specific target in mind—the frequency goes out to the atmosphere, and then it’s picked up by your device. 5G uses a process called beamforming to target a signal with greater precision, which reduces the chance that signals will get crossed in crowded areas where lots of people are on a network at the same time.
The speeds on lower-tier forms of 5G aren’t exactly mind-blowing—in some cases they’re only slightly faster than 4G. But customers have seen a big drop in latency (the slight delay that happens when data is transferred). Lower latency makes things go a lot smoother when you’re streaming videos, playing video games, and talking with friends over video chat on Zoom.
How will internet providers use 5G?
As 5G networks expand across the country, cellphone providers will use these wireless systems to vastly improve speeds and performance on your home internet plan. They have the potential to create an alternative to current internet providers that operate fiber, cable, DSL, and satellite networks.
In cities and densely populated areas, 5G’s millimeter-wave signals will make it possible to achieve much faster speeds than what is currently available from fiber and cable companies. It’s possible that 5G may revolutionize internet altogether, introducing highly efficient, fixed-wireless networks that we’ll be using in our homes.
5G is also paving the way for new possibilities in commercial and industrial sectors. Qualcomm, for example, is working to develop faster 5G chips for phones. 5G is also expected to drastically reduce healthcare costs and increase efficiency by expanding telemedicine and improving VR capabilities. Factories and farms could also use 5G to streamline operations through motion sensors and automation.
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). But 5G is still a budding technology. 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.
Until then, it will mostly be useful to boost speeds and cut down latency on our cellphones.
When will 5G be available to most Americans?
AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint all launched their 5G wireless networks in late 2019, so 5G is currently available to customers in select cities across the United States. Cell phone manufacturers like Samsung and Motorola have also been releasing 5G-compatible phones, giving you the ability to tap into any 5G networks near you. And many expect to see a 5G iPhone released some time in the fall of 2020.
How fast is 5G really?
The best 5G speeds are expected to top out at 10,000 Mbps (10 Gbps), making it 100 times faster than the top 4G speed. But that’s the ultimate ideal on the Christmas wish lists of wireless providers.
Like we said earlier, most of the 5G that’s widely available taps out somewhere between 200 Mbps and 1,000 Mbps, which is still plenty fast—especially for a cellphone. 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?
The fastest type of 5G operates on radio frequencies that previously weren’t used by 4G, so it has a much greater capacity for carrying and transmitting data. 5G also uses technology like MU-MIMO and beamforming to reduce network congestion and direct radio signals directly to your device.
The current 4G technology relies on lower-frequency bands of up to 6 GHz (6,000 MHz), while millimeter-wave 5G ventures into bands of up to 300 GHz. Since the capacity of 4G 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.”
Since 5G offers a much higher frequency and a much wider “hallway,” your 5G device will see much faster speeds—even when dozens of other devices are on the same 5G network. Low- and mid-band versions of 5G use some of these same frequencies, but still get faster speeds than 4G due to better technology and newer infrastructure.
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.
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.
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 is limited until they do.
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 is following 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 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.
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 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 three major US wireless providers—AT&T, T-Mobile (which recently merged with Sprint), 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.
When will 5G be 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. The device we haven’t seen yet is a 5G iPhone, which many observers expect to see released in fall 2020.
Here’s our five favorite 5G phones available on the market now:
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus—best overall
- OnePlus 8 Pro—best features
- LG V50 ThinQ 5G—best screen
- Motorola Edge Plus—best cameras
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G—best value
What frequency is 5G?
5G covers a wide range of radio frequencies, from 600 MHz all the way up to 300 GHz. Low- and mid-band versions of 5G operate on some of the same frequencies as 4G wireless networks, providing a wide range and slightly faster speeds. High-band 5G enters into the much-ballyhooed millimeter-wave spectrum, ranging from 30 GHz to 300 GHz. This spectrum previously hasn’t been used for commercial purposes. It has a short range but transmits much greater amounts of data at extremely high speeds.
Do I need a 5G Wi-Fi extender or router?
No, you won’t need to worry about getting a Wi-Fi extender or router for 5G just yet. Wireless providers are focusing on building up their wireless networks right now, and 5G internet for the home is still in its infancy. It’s available only in a very small handful of areas, and it’s probably best to stick with the equipment the providers offer for the time being—at least until more 5G routers and extenders come on the market.
But these modems will act like mobile hotspots or be used in mobile hotspots—so you’ll need to connect to AT&T, 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.