Verizon's New 'Nationwide' 5G Isn't Nationwide, Barely Faster Than 4G

from the that-word,-it-does-not-mean-what-you-think-it-means dept

While unveiling its shiny new 5G-enabled iPhones this week, Apple brought Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg to the stage to declare that Verizon had launched an updated, “nationwide” 5G network that shores up the company’s 5G coverage. Until now, Verizon has largely embraced “high band” or millimeter wave 5G, which provides amazing speeds if you’re near an antenna, but suffers from terrible range and building wall penetration issues. As a result, the company has been routinely criticized for comically overstating not only what 5G is capable of, but where 5G is available.

To attack this credibility problem, and drive some hype for the new iPhones, Verizon announced that it was dramatically expanding its 5G network to 200 million more people.* To do so, Verizon’s using “dynamic spectrum sharing” (DSS) that helps utilize some existing 4G channels to offer 5G. The problem: Vestberg wouldn’t state what speeds this new “5G” service operates at, because it’s not likely to be much faster than existing 4G. It will however make the “5G” icon on your phone light up, which is helpful for marketing purposes:

“As there’s going to be no additional airwaves in use, you shouldn’t expect much better speeds than on 4G. 5G shines when it has big, broad lanes to itself. On the other hand, this lets Verizon manage a transition from 4G to 5G smoothly, and lets it light up a 5G icon on many people’s phones for marketing reasons.”

In time, 5G will provide faster, more reliable, lower-latency networks. But Verizon has repeatedly tried to advertise 5G as less evolutionary and more revolutionary, claiming (falsely) that it’s akin to the “fourth industrial revolution,” will revolutionize cancer treatment (something doctors I’ve talked to have laughed at), and will result in amazing next-generation smart cities of tomorrow. In reality it’s an incremental upgrade that’s good but not game changing, especially given a recent study showed Verizon 5G was available just 0.4% of the time in the real world.

Several problems: one, a self-regulatory oversight system constructed by the telecom sector to pre-empt real regulatory action declares it fine to abuse the word “nationwide,” (something T-Mobile is doing as well). *And the FCC, for decades, has done a piss poor job verifying the chasm between marketing hype, ISP claims, and actual availability. Regulatory capture also means industry sees little meaningful penalty for lying about coverage, so they, you know, keep doing it.

In wireless carrier and handset vendor PR land, 5G is an incredible, revolutionary upgrade that changes everything. With smartphone innovation flailing and overall sales lagging, they’re eager to drive mass upgrades by portraying 5G as something more substantive than it is.

Here in reality, U.S. 5G continues to be far slower than a long list of overseas networks because we’ve done a poor job making mid-band spectrum available for public use and driving fiber to lower ROI areas (despite billions upon billions in subsidization). And numerous studies have found that current 5G is in some instances slower than 4G. In a few years as more mid-band spectrum is pushed to market this will steadily improve. But right now, consumers (correctly) don’t really see 5G as worth it, which is a major reason why Verizon had to back off plans to charge a $10 monthly premium just to access it.

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Companies: verizon

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Comments on “Verizon's New 'Nationwide' 5G Isn't Nationwide, Barely Faster Than 4G”

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10 Comments
Michael Long (profile) says:

I don't think that word means what you think it means

Just like information coming out of the White House. "I know I said ‘nation-wide’, but… I mean, it’s in some places in NY and in some places in LA, so… like… that’s nation-wide, right?"

"It’s even… I read somewhere… it’s even in half a baseball field in Chicago, so it’s even in the middle of the country, right?"

"All these people trying to say it’s not nation-wide… sad really. Just more FAKE NEWS!"

Anonymous Coward says:

What a shock news at 11 a telecom mobile phone company is not completely honest about its network coverage

I.m Surprised apple emphasised 5g so much in its latest iphone reveal when less than 1 per cent of users can get a good 5g signal and even then 4g is usually faster
5g now is basically hype maybe in 2 years there might be good 5g coverage in city’s
IF telecom company’s can actually get the spectrum they need
I suppose each new iPhone needs a new gimmick
to get people to spend 1000 dollars on a phone

Anonymous Coward says:

At this point, really don’t care. I don’t have a lot of need for faster on a phone.

So why should I boot out more money for a new phone capable of 5G and endure faster battery depletion in the process not to mention higher phone bills for the use of it?

Exactly how does extra speed help with voice calls? For that matter how does it help with text messages? You can only punch keys so fast, the text is not going to leave your phone before you’re done typing it out.

Cyber Killer says:

Bandwidth problem

The biggest problem with mobile networks that I experienced is the actual bandwidth which is provided.

3G allowed for 7 Mbps, but all that was available in my country was 1 Mbps at most.
4G allows over 100 Mbps, which would be awesome for most purposes, but I saw 15 Mbps at most.

I don’t care for 5G, just give proper bandwidth behind the BTS to use what the current tech can achieve.

Cyber Killer says:

Bandwidth problem

The biggest problem with mobile networks that I experienced is the actual bandwidth which is provided.

3G allowed for 7 Mbps, but all that was available in my country was 1 Mbps at most.
4G allows over 100 Mbps, which would be awesome for most purposes, but I saw 15 Mbps at most.

I don’t care for 5G, just give proper bandwidth behind the BTS to use what the current tech can achieve.

TasMot (profile) says:

Verizon 5G

Here: https://www.verizon.com/coverage-map/, is a Verizon 5G coverage map. However; the most important thing to look at is that all those red 5G splotches. Wow, so much 5G coverage. Until you look at the "Legend". In there, the red 5G splotches are 5G AND 4GLTE coverage combined. There is no just 5G coverage displayed in the map, at all.

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