Verizon's UltraFast 5G Can Only Be Accessed 0.8% Of The Time
from the not-the-revolution-we-were-promised dept
We’ve noted repeatedly how fifth-generation wireless (5G) was painfully over-hyped. To spike lagging smartphone and network hardware sales, carriers, equipment makers, and the lawmakers paid to love them spent years insisting that 5G would change the world, ushering forth amazing new cancer cures and the revolutionary smart cities of tomorrow. But while 5G is an important evolutionary step toward faster, more resilient networks, it’s more of an evolution than a revolution, particularly here in the US, and most of the loftier claims have proven to be a bit hollow.
Several studies have now shown how US 5G is significantly slower than overseas networks, thanks in part to our failure to push more high speed, high-range middleband spectrum to market. And within the United States, many 5G networks have shown to actually be slower than 4G. Throughout this, Verizon has particularly hyped its millimeter wave “ultrawideband” (mmWave) flavor of 5G, which offers ultra-fast speeds, but struggles a bit with range and things like building wall penetration.
But a new OpenSignal report indicates that despite years of hype, Verizon’s ultra-fast 5G variant is only actually available to consumers with 5G-capable phones around 0.8% of the time:
To be clear, the speeds seen on Verizon’s ultrawideband 5G network have reached 692.9 Mbps, an incredible benchmark for wireless service. But those kinds of speeds are only really useful if they’re consistently available, and they simply… aren’t:
“In Opensignal?s analytics, we consistently see our Verizon mmWave 5G users experiencing a higher average time connected to mmWave 5G than users on the other U.S. carriers. In this 90 day period, our Verizon users saw a mean time connected to mmWave 5G of 0.8% compared with 0.5% on AT&T and T-Mobile. However, despite Verizon appearing to be ahead this result actually represents a statistical tie because of overlapping confidence intervals with AT&T.”
A different OpenSignal study looked at 5G availability across all spectrum bands, and still found that heavily hyped standard still isn’t widely available despite optimistic carrier maps and rosy marketing. The firm found that 5G was available to users with 5G-enabled smartphones 33.1 percent of the time on T-Mobile’s network, 20.5 percent of the time on AT&T’s network, and 11.2 percent of the time on Verizon’s network.
To be clear, many of 5G’s early growing pains should resolve over the next few years as more middleband spectrum is pushed to market. And 5G absolutely is an important improvement in terms of wireless speed, latency, and overall network reliability. But this parade of studies highlights a continued disconnect between carrier marketing hype and reality. A gap that will only act to associate “nationwide 5G” with empty promises in the minds of consumers. Meanwhile, many US analysts and news outlets still don’t much like to even talk about the fact that US consumers pay some of the highest prices for wireless data in the developed world, something that’s only likely to accelerate in the wake of continued sector consolidation. That too seems to get lost in the hype.