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.

 

How does 5G work?

5G is the next evolution of wireless networks to follow in the footsteps of 4G. It uses some of the same radio bands, but also incorporates millimeter-wave spectrum that brings faster speeds and carries more data over shorter distances.

5G also uses new technology like massive MU-MIMO, beamforming, and small cells—transmitters posted to utility boxes and light poles that can carry 5G’s Wi-Fi signals in a more efficient way.

There are currently three types of 5G. Low-band and mid-band networks have longer ranges but speeds more in the line of 4G. High-band 5G uses millimeter-waves, letting it hit 1 Gbps speeds and above in contained areas.

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

AT&T and T-Mobile have the largest 5G networks, which mostly operate on low- and mid-band spectrum. Both providers have been scrambling to expand their markets throughout 2020. In September, T-Mobile announced that it brought mid-band 5G capability to 81 more towns and cities and promised thousands more markets by the end of the year.

Until recently, Sprint was another player in the 5G game of thrones. But T-Mobile and Sprint recently joined forces in a corporate merger, and the companies are currently in the process of combining their 5G networks under the name The New T-Mobile.

Here’s a snapshot of 5G network availability and speeds across the country:

Provider 5G launch Max 5G speed
AT&T Available in 335 markets Up to 1.5 Gbps (1,500 Mbps)*
Sprint Live in 14 cities 213 Mbps on average**
T-Mobile Available in nearly 6,000 cities and towns Up to 600 Mbps
Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband available in 34 cities and 13 NFL stadiums Up to 953 Mbps (and 1.45 Gbps with carrier aggregation)

 

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

4G is a wireless network used primarily for cellphones. 5G vastly boosts the speeds and lowers the latency of wireless technology, using new infrastructure and innovations to apply wireless to wider array of potential uses—including automated cars, smart factories, and home internet.

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 technology that delivers data to our devices with more 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 get 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.

Is 5G really faster than 4G?

Yes, in most cases 5G is much faster than 4G. However, the extent to which it’s faster depends on the type of 5G it is. Low- and mid-band 5G networks are equal to or slightly faster than 4G. Millimeter-wave 5G networks, on the other hand, are capable of delivering exponentially faster speeds, on the same level as the fiber and cable internet that you use in your home.

4G and 4G LTE networks typically provide download speeds of between 6 Mbps to 60 Mbps. 5G networks deliver download speeds in the range of 40 Mbps to 1,100 Mbps. Cell carriers and 5G experts believe that 5G will eventually be able to hit even higher speeds, possibly topping out at 10 Gbps (10,000 Mbps).

One of the reasons 5G is able to hit faster speeds than 4G is because it relies on new technology that cuts down on interference between 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.

Will 5G affect TV?

5G won’t have a huge effect on TV companies or TV viewing, it seems. However, satellite TV provider Dish Network has been pivoting towards wireless amid the rise of 5G. The Colorado–based company recently secured a deal to purchase T-Mobile’s prepaid branch, Boost Mobile. Dish has also spent billions of dollars purchasing the rights to a vast quantity of wireless spectrum (the radio bands used to operate 4G and 5G networks). Now, with access to T-Mobile’s wireless network, Dish is expected to start building up its own 5G network.

5G home internet

ProviderAvailabilityPriceSpeed
Verizon 5G Home InternetLos Angeles, Sacramento, Houston, Indianapolis, and Chicago$50/mo. (for wireless customers) or $70/mo. (for non-wireless customers)300 Mbps–1 Gbps
Starry InternetLos Angeles, Denver, New York City, Boston, Washington DC$50/mo.Up to 200 Mbps
T-Mobile Home Internet*Limited availability in select markets$50/mo. (with AutoPay)25 Mbps or more
ProviderVerizon 5G Home Internet
AvailabilityLos Angeles, Sacramento, Houston, Indianapolis, and Chicago
Price$50/mo. (for wireless customers) or $70/mo. (for non-wireless customers)
Speed300 Mbps–1 Gbps
ProviderStarry Internet
AvailabilityLos Angeles, Denver, New York City, Boston, Washington DC
Price$50/mo.
SpeedUp to 200 Mbps
ProviderT-Mobile Home Internet*
AvailabilityLimited availability in select markets
Price$50/mo. (with AutoPay)
Speed25 Mbps or more

Can 5G be used for home internet?

Yes, 5G has the potential to be used for home internet. But it’s still in an early stage at this point and it may be a while before 5G internet is a viable and readily-available option nationwide, equal to fiber or cable internet.

Verizon has 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 like Starry Internet have also gotten in on the action.

What does 5G internet mean?

The most common version of 5G internet is essentially a combination of wireless and fiber internet. It uses fiber networks as the backbone to carry an internet connection to neighborhood nodes, at which point it gets converted into a wireless signal beamed into apartment buildings via 5G “small cell” transmitters.

5G internet from providers like Starry Internet centers around urban areas. Small cells are positioned within the line of sight of a customer’s residence, usually an apartment building. Over the small cells, millimeter-wave bands bring an internet connection to the building. Speeds range from 200 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps and plans cost between $50 and $70 per month, depending on the provider and what’s available in your area.

You also may be able to use a 5G phone or mobile hotspot for your internet, but it likely won’t be practical for most people. A hotspot in particular costs a lot more than if you had a regular internet plan, since you’ll have to pay for the hotspot itself along with a data plan from a cellular provider to go with it. 5G hotspots can cost twice as much or even more than 4G LTE hotspots, and 5G networks have limited coverage, mostly focused around urban areas and select cities and towns.

Will 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.

Is 5G internet better than other types of internet?

5G internet from providers like Verizon 5G Home and Starry Internet in some ways aren’t competitive with fiber and cable internet, which are far more common. But in other ways 5G internet could be a more affordable and convenient option.

5G internet delivers faster speeds than DSL internet. But it hits the same speeds as fiber and cable internet, ranging from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps. It’s not nearly as available as fiber or cable, since 5G internet is mostly centered in urban areas (for now at least). But a huge advantage is that 5G usually comes at a relatively affordable flat rate, with no price hikes or extra charges for installation and equipment.

For example, Starry Internet advertises a single plan at $50 per month, with no costs buried in the fine print that will bring up your bill. Starry Internet markets its internet mostly to cord-cutters and tech-savvy youth, who may be seeking an alternate option from cable or fiber.

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.

Starry Internet, delivers internet to apartment complexes and some residential dwellings in Los Angeles, Denver, New York City, Boston, Washington DC. The provider charges a set $50 per month for a plan that delivers up to 200 Mbps speeds.

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 currently offering a trial version of the service on its 4G LTE network to a select number of T-Mobile customers.

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.

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

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.

5G incorporates a few new forms of technology that allow wireless signals to travel faster and with greater efficiency.

First off, millimeter-wave versions of 5G rely on the deployment of “small cells”—essentially miniature radio towers placed on utility boxes and light poles. Since millimeter waves have such a short range, small cells will allow millimeter-wave 5G networks to carry signals over a wider distance.

5G also uses a technology called massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) in order to strengthen wireless signals. MIMO technology is currently used in routers and cellphones, but with 5G it’s built up to a much bigger scale. Small cell transmitters will incorporate a much larger number of antennas compared to 4G’s radio towers. This allows for more signals to be processed all at the same time, cutting down on network congestion and improving the efficiency of wireless signals.

Last but not least, 5G networks incorporate a technique called “beamforming,” which uses complex algorithms and antenna arrays to direct signals with more precision. The antennas send out overlapping signals, and a computer processor shapes them in a way that diverts the signals in certain directions. This cuts down on network interference and gives you a stronger signal as the wireless radio bands are being shaped and targeted directly to your mobile device.

Because 5G antennas are smaller than 4G ones, the small cells of a 5G network can be placed in more inconspicuous locations, 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. Millimeter-wave 5G networks need a huge quantity of small cell transmitters to carry the fastest speeds. The need to build up so much new infrastructure will no doubt prevent the fastest 5G networks from expanding beyond major cities and stadiums. Rural areas and small towns will be getting low- and mid-band versions of 5G, which won’t deliver the same speeds but will have a wider range and still be faster and better than 4G. 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.

But is 5G dangerous?

According to many scientists, 5G does not pose any health risks. Millimeter-wave radio bands are a form of non-ionizing radiation, meaning they aren’t capable of damaging your internal organs or DNA in the way that gamma rays or X-rays can. There is no evidence that 5G signals weaken your immune system or burn your skin. And 5G does not cause the coronavirus, despite outlandish online rumors to the contrary.

The idea of having countless 5G towers blasting high-frequency waves 24/7 does have 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. For the time being, though, there is no evidence that 5G causes any negative health effects.

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 is 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?

Right now, 5G is mostly used for wireless phone networks. There are some providers who tout fixed-wireless versions of 5G that you can use to provide internet in your home. But availability is extremely limited and it’s hard to say whether 5G home internet service is better or faster than long-established DSL, fiber, and cable internet networks for the home.

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.

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 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.

What does 5G mean?

5G stands for “fifth generation,” which means it’s the fifth generation of wireless network standards. In comparison to 5G’s predecessors, 4G and LTE, networks that meet 5G standards deliver faster internet speeds with lower latency, making phones and other devices far more responsive to the demands of our interconnected world.

All major cellular networks, like Verizon and AT&T, are currently upgrading 4G networks to 5G across the country. The process will take several years but it could lead to some big changes in wireless communications and Wi-Fi.

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 potentially more than 10 times faster than 4G, although the actual speeds vary quite widely depending on the type of 5G network you’re on. The lowest 5G speeds aren’t much faster than 4G, clocking in around 40 Mbps. The fastest 5G—available in a select number of densely-contained urban areas—tops out at a truly impressive 1.1 Gbps.

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

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.

The terms “5G” and “fixed wireless” became linked because the technologies for both continue to expand simultaneously. They intertwine mainly in reference to 5G home internet, which in its most current iteration relies on fixed wireless antennas to convert an internet connection from a fiber network into a radio signal so it can then be transmitted into apartment buildings and other multi-dwelling abodes.

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.

When will 5G be available nationwide?

5G is currently operational in some parts of the United States, but it will be a few years still before full-fledged, top-speed 5G coverage is available nationwide to the extent that 4G LTE is now.

The three major cell carriers have been busy in 2020 building up nationwide networks, so 5G is increasingly available in more cities and towns across the US with each passing day. However, speeds vary depending on the provider and the type of spectrum each 5G network is using. Some cities have more patchy coverage than others, and most rural areas have no access to 5G at all.

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—and there likely will be many, many more in the months to come. Most 5G phones are deluxe items that cost upwards of $1,000. But companies like Qualcomm have been developing chipsets designed for more affordable 5G phones and other devices, raising the possibility that we may soon see 5G devices costing as little as $150.

The device we haven’t seen yet is a 5G iPhone, but it will happen. Many observers expect to see a 5G iPhone released in fall 2020.

Here are 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 39 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.

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, 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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