Verizon 5G Updates For Samsung Galaxy Phones

On Tuesday, I posted about Verizon’s launch of low-band 5G. I mentioned that my 5G-compatible phone was still connected to 4G even though I was supposedly within the coverage area for Verizon’s 5G.

As it turns out, a handful of 5G-capable devices need updates to work with Verizon’s low-band 5G. Yesterday, software updates became available on several Samsung Galaxy phones sold by Verizon:

  • S20 5G UW
  • S20 Ultra 5G
  • S20+ 5G
  • Note20 5G
  • A71 5G UW
  • A51 5G UW

After installing an update, my Galaxy S20 connected to Verizon’s 5G without trouble. Note that software updates may not be available yet for those who purchased one of the phones on the list from a retailer other than Verizon.

Visible’s Plans For 5G

Visible, a flanker brand of Verizon, just shared details about its plans for 5G service (hat tip to Dennis Bournique who tweeted about the news).

Visible will soon offer 5G service for phones in the iPhone 12 line. 5G service for some Android phones will be available a bit later.

5G won’t cost extra, but Visible suggested it may impose a speed cap (emphasis mine):

We believe that people deserve a better phone service experience, which is why we’re including 5G, with speeds up to 200 Mbps, as part of our core plan at no additional cost. No hidden fees, no forcing you to upgrade into a different, secretly-more-expensive plan.

I’m not confident the 200Mbps cap will be enforced, at least initially. In the past, Visible mentioned a 5Mbps limit on hotspot speeds, but the company didn’t strictly enforce the limit.

It looks like Visible’s 5G service will include both Verizon’s sub-6 5G and Verizon’s millimeter wave 5G:

At launch, 5G will be available for Visible members where Verizon 5G coverage is available.

Verizon’s Massive 5G Expansion

Today, Verizon announced a huge expansion of its 5G service.

More millimeter wave

According to today’s press release, Verizon added ultra-fast, millimeter wave 5G service to parts of 19 cities, 19 stadiums, and 6 airports. In total, millimeter wave service from Verizon is now available in parts of 55 cities and 43 stadiums.

Nationwide, low-band 5G

Verizon also announced that it’s now using dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) to offer slower, low-band 5G to over 200 million customers.1

With DSS, when customers move outside Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband coverage area, their 5G-enabled devices will remain on 5G technology using lower bands of spectrum.

According to Verizon’s coverage map, the low-band 5G service is available in most densely populated areas, but only a minority of the U.S. by land area. Here’s a screenshot from the map today:

Verizon coverage map showing areas with 5G coverage

I’m writing this post from an area allegedly in Verizon’s 5G coverage profile. My Galaxy S20 5G phone is still showing a 4G connection.

Carrier aggregation

Today’s press release also includes a boast about Verizon’s recent achievements with bleeding-edge carrier aggregation technology:

Using carrier aggregation, a technology that combines multiple channels of spectrum to provide greater efficiency for data sessions transmitting over the wireless network, Verizon combined eight separate channels of mmWave spectrum to achieve record-setting multi-gigabit speeds in parts of some cities. Using this technology, customers will see double the download speeds they have historically experienced on 5G Ultra Wideband, with peak speeds up to 4Gbps possible in some locations.
5G abstract

T-Mobile Expands Mid-Band 5G

T-Mobile just launched mid-band 5G in a bunch of cities. Here’s the key bit from the press release:

T-Mobile lit up a supercharged 5G experience in another 121 cities and towns with mid-band 5G, delivering up to gigabit-per-second peak speeds and average download speeds around 300 megabits-per-second for capable 5G devices.

The expansion into mid-band 5G is exciting. While T-Mobile has been destroying its competitors in terms of 5G coverage, T-Mobile has relied mostly on slow, low-band 5G.

Twitter sweepstakes

In the press release, T-Mobile mentions a sweepstakes to encourage Twitter users to discuss T-Mobile’s 5G:

To celebrate, T-Mobile is giving away $100,000 on Twitter over the next several months, with #5Gsfor5G.

Interestingly, T-Mobile’s President of Technology, Neville Ray, criticized this sort of thing in a Tweet he shared the same day the sweepstakes launched:

T-Mobile To Offer A Cheap 5G Phone – REVVL 5G

T-Mobile just announced that it will soon offer the REVVL 5G for a regular price of $400. Eligible customers can get the phone for a discounted price of $200.

I believe the REVVL 5G will be the cheapest 5G phone available in the U.S. when it launches on September 4. T-Mobile and T-Mobile’s flanker brand, Metro, will both stock the device.

REVVL 5G details

The REVVL 5G is essentially a rebranded and slightly altered version of the TCL 10 5G, a phone that received some solid reviews.1 The REVVL 5G will have a Snapdragon 765 processor and compatibility with the following bands:

LTE:

  • B2
  • B4
  • B25
  • B26
  • B41
  • B66

5G:

  • n2
  • n25
  • n66
  • n71

Notably, the REVVL 5G will not be compatible with the frequencies used for millimeter wave 5G.

Promotion eligibility

While the regular price of the REVVL 5G is $400 (or $16.67 per month for 24 months), eligible customers can effectively get the device for $200. Here’s an excerpt from today’s press release:

New and existing T-Mobile customers — including T-Mobile for Business customers up to 12 lines — can get REVVL 4 and REVVL 4+ for FREE or the REVVL 5G for just $200 after 24 bill credits when they switch or add a line.

My take

I’m glad to see a cheaper 5G phone hitting the market. I don’t think consumers need to rush out and buy the device in mass, though. We’ll see more budget-friendly devices arriving on the market over the next few years. Hopefully, it won’t be long before we see a low-price device compatible with both sub-6 5G and millimeter wave 5G.

DISH, MATRIXX, and Dynamic Pricing

DISH and MATRIXX Software just came out with a press release titled: “DISH selects MATRIXX Software for dynamic pricing and monetization of its 5G network”.

I’m a huge advocate of variable-rate pricing. Varying data charges based on how congested cellular networks are would bring huge efficiency gains.

While the press release seems promising, it’s full of corporate jargon and light on substance. Here’s the key bit from the press release:

MATRIXX’s API-first architecture is proven to deploy quickly and cost-effectively. Combined with DISH’s AI strategy, it will determine network availability and utilization, dynamically changing prices throughout the day. MATRIXX’s cloud native, continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline then automates pricing updates.

Cutting Through Bullshit Around 5G Latency

There’s a lot of unrealistic hype going around about 5G. Most of the hype focuses on the blazing-fast speeds 5G can offer.

Today, T-Mobile’s CEO, Mike Sievert, made a big deal about 5G latency rather than 5G speed:1

Latency measures the time delay involved in data transfer. It’s common for 4G connections to have a latency of about one-twentieth of a second (50 milliseconds). Some 5G technologies may be able to push latency far lower.

The video Sievert shared is allegedly a demonstration of latency under different technologies. It’s not remotely fair. The phone supposedly demonstrating a 4G LTE connection is about five seconds behind the real world. Latency isn’t anywhere near that bad with 4G. If it was that bad, normal voice conversations and video chats using 4G wouldn’t be possible.

Rethinking “Nationwide”

T-Mobile and AT&T started describing their 5G networks as nationwide once the networks covered over 200 million people. I’ve seen multiple people suggest that this is related to FCC rules. Allegedly, the FCC only allows networks to be described as nationwide when they cover over 200 million people. I’ve searched around, and I can’t find any FCC documents mentioning such a guideline.

As far as I can tell, the 200 million number comes from the National Advertising Division (NAD), a self-regulatory body for the advertising industry.1 Here’s an excerpt from a 2014 NAD publication:

NAD noted in its decision that it has applied a consistent standard for ‘coast to coast’ service for the past 10 years. In general, a wireless network can claim to be nationwide or coast to coast if the provider offers service in diverse regions of the country and the network covers at least 200 million people.

200 million people would make up about 60% of the U.S. population.2 I don’t think a network covering 60% of the U.S. population is nationwide in the common-sense meaning of the word. If networks with such lackluster coverage are advertised as nationwide, consumers will be misled.

The NAD should update its approach. The exact meaning of nationwide isn’t clear cut, but I think even a loose standard should be something like this:

Nationwide network: A network that covers at least 85% of the U.S. population and offers service in some parts of every state.

The NAD should probably frame its standard in terms of a percentage of the U.S. population covered (rather than a raw number of people covered). In 2004, 200 million people would have been almost 70% of the U.S. population.3 The NAD’s standard made more sense then. As the country’s population has grown, the NAD’s standard has become weaker.

AT&T’s 5G Coverage Now “Nationwide”

This morning, AT&T announced that its 5G network is now nationwide. By “nationwide,” I believe AT&T means that the service is estimated to cover over 200 million Americans. There are still plenty of parts of the country that are not covered by AT&T’s 5G service.

AT&T shared a few other noteworthy items in its announcement:

  • AT&T will add 5G support to the Unlimited Starter plan (the carriers’ most basic postpaid unlimited plan) at no extra charge on August 7.
  • Business customers on the Unlimited Web-Only plan will also get 5G support starting on August 7.
  • Cricket Wireless will begin offering 5G service on August 21.

On all of these plans, 5G service will only be available for subscribers with 5G-compatible devices.

5G Coming To Cricket Wireless

Today, AT&T came out with a press release stating that 5G service will be coming to Cricket Wireless. Here’s the relevant bit:

On Aug. 21, Cricket Wireless customers will be able to activate 5G service on the Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G. More details soon!

As far as I can tell, Cricket has not yet updated its own web pages about 5G.

I expect Cricket subscribers will be able to access both AT&T’s sub-6 5G and AT&T’s ultra-fast millimeter wave 5G. While the S20+ will initially be the only 5G phone offered by Cricket, we should soon see the carrier offering more 5G-compatible devices. It may also be possible for Cricket customers to bring their own unlocked 5G phones to the service.