City

5G Is For The Future

I’ve written regularly about 5G being overhyped. The performance improvements 5G technologies offer don’t have much practical value. Not yet anyway. 4G connections are easily sufficient for most things normal people want to do on their phones.

While I think T-Mobile executives have been particularly guilty of overhyping 5G on Twitter, I’m seeing some common ground with Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s President of Technology. The other day, Ray approvingly tweeted about someone suggesting 5G is for the future:


Neville Ray tweet


In 2004, the year the iconic Motorola RAZR V3 was released, it would have been hard to imagine the purpose of a 50Mbps cellular connection. The idea of watching videos on a phone probably felt a bit silly. Fortunately, innovation moved ahead anyway.

Even though I make a fuss about the incessant BS and marketing gimmicks around 5G, I’m sure we’ll eventually find great use cases for the technology. Maybe in five or ten years, it’ll be extremely common for people on laptops to access the internet with low-cost, high-performance cellular connections. Perhaps 5G will enable a huge expansion in the Internet of Things. Honestly, I’m not sure what will happen. I’m excited to see what people come up with.

Verizon building

No Throttling Of Verizon’s Ultra Wideband Mobile Hotspot

Verizon’s premium unlimited plans (Play More Unlimited, Do More Unlimited, and Get More Unlimited) come with 15-30GB monthly allotments of mobile hotspot data. The 15-30GB hotspot allowances only apply when using hotspot data through Verizon’s 4G LTE or 5G Nationwide service.

In July, I shared a post about Verizon’s rarely discussed policies for hotspot use with the network’s 5G Ultra Wideband service. At the time, subscribers on Verizon’s premium plans were allotted 50GB of full-speed, Ultra Wideband hotspot use each month. Verizon suggested it would throttle hotspot speeds to 3Mbps for subscribers that burned through their data allotments. Here’s a screenshot I pulled from Verizon’s website in July:

Screenshot of Verizon account interface showing a 5G hotspot allotment

I no longer see that usage graphic in my Verizon dashboard. Instead, I see graphics like these:

Verizon data usage graphs

As best as I can tell, Verizon no longer throttles heavy users of Ultra Wideband hotspot data. Reddit user albert1735 recently provided some corroboration. Yesterday, the user shared a video showing speed tests pulling several hundred megabits per second after over 70GB of hotspot use in a single month.

While there aren’t data caps or throttles for Ultra Wideband mobile hotspots at this time, I expect they’ll come back once Verizon’s 5G deployment is further along.

Telecom abstract

Verizon Expands 5G Coverage

Today, Verizon announced expansions of its 5G coverage.

More low-band 5G coverage

Verizon’s low-band 5G, 5G Nationwide in Verizon’s parlance, now covers about 25 million additional people. Here’s an excerpt from Verizon’s press release:

Verizon announced continued expansion of its 5G Nationwide service to millions more customers throughout Central Texas, Tulsa, OK, Upstate New York, and the New England area, bringing the total to 230 million people able to access Verizon’s 5G capabilities and benefits in over 2,700 cities.

New millimeter wave cities

Verizon added millimeter wave 5G to parts of four additional cities:

  • Tampa
  • St. Petersburg
  • Albuquerque
  • Durham

The additions bring the total number of cities with some millimeter wave coverage from Verizon to 61.

Verizon is also claiming to have millimeter wave coverage in parts of 48 stadiums. I’m not sure which stadiums Verizon added, but I believe Verizon’s count of stadiums increased by 5 since the company last shared a number publicly.

Carrier aggregation

Verizon’s press release included some boasting about the network operator’s carrier aggregation capabilities:

Using advanced technology called Carrier Aggregation, Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network is reaching 4 Gbps peak speeds in some locations. This technology 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 multi-gigabit speeds in parts of some cities. Using this technology, customers can see double the download speeds they have historically experienced on 5G Ultra Wideband, with peak speeds up to 4 Gbps possible in some locations. Customers will also see a boost in speeds with two carrier aggregation now available for uploads.

You can check Verizon’s 5G coverage at your location with the company’s interactive coverage map. For more details about Verizon’s 5G coverage and strategy, see my dedicated article.

T-Mobile Launches Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 & New Hotspot Plans

Last week, T-Mobile announced new mobile hotspot plans and the release of the Inseego 5G MiFi M2000.

Inseego 5G MiFi M2000

The Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 is T-mobile’s fanciest hotspot, and I believe the company’s first 5G-capable hotspot. The device supports both 4G service and sub-6 5G service. It does not support millimeter wave 5G, but that may be unimportant for now since T-Mobile’s millimeter wave coverage is extremely limited.

The hotspot has a base price of $336 (or 24 monthly installments of $14). With a promotion T-Mobile is running, customers that add a new line and purchase the device on a 24-month installment plan can get the M2000 for 50% off ($168 paid in $7 per month installments).

While I haven’t got my hands on the M2000 yet, I have been testing a very similar model offered by Verizon, the M2100, and I’m impressed.

New mobile hotspot plans

With the release of the M2000, T-Mobile also launched a handful of new plans for mobile hotspot devices. Most notably, a plan with a 100GB monthly allotment costs only $50 per month. Well-priced plans with 10GB and 30GB monthly data allotments are also available. T-Mobile shared this graphic in its press release:

Image detailing T-Mobile's new hotspot plans

While T-Mobile’s new offerings are excellent, the graphic represents T-Mobile’s competition unfairly. AT&T and Verizon don’t always offer plans with the data allotments shown in the graphic. To show prices competitors charge in these cases, T-Mobile slyly includes competitor’s overage charges. Additionally, T-Mobile doesn’t mention Verizon’s add-on hotspot plans. Verizon’s add-on plans are available to a substantial portion of the carrier’s subscribers, and the plans offer good value: 15GB for $20 per month or 30GB for $30 per month.1

5G city image

Visible Rolling Out 5G For iPhones

Visible, a flanker brand of Verizon, has just started rolling out 5G service. Yesterday, a Reddit user posted a screenshot showing an iPhone running over Visible’s service with a 5G connection.

At this time, it looks like Visible’s 5G service is only available to customers with devices in the iPhone 12 line that are running iOS 14.3. Here’s an excerpt from a Q&A on Visible’s website:

You’ll need the most up-to-date iOS software and carrier bundle for your device before you can experience 5G. Remember, we only offer 5G on iPhone 12 at the moment, and you’ll need to be in a 5G area to experience 5G.

It looks like Visible has updated its coverage map to show areas where 5G is available. As expected, Visible’s 5G coverage looks essentially identical to Verizon’s 5G coverage.

Now that Visible’s 5G has launched for iPhones, I don’t think it will be long before the carrier launches 5G service for some Android devices.

T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G

In a press release shared yesterday, T-Mobile started referring to some of its 5G services as Ultra Capacity 5G. We’ve seen this kind of branding move before. Verizon calls its 5G service using low-frequency signals 5G Nationwide and its millimeter wave service 5G Ultra Wideband. AT&T calls its millimeter wave service 5G+.

T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G will typically deliver excellent speeds, but it isn’t well-suited for extensive coverage. Ultra Capacity 5G stands in contrast with T-Mobile’s low-frequency 5G, which T-Mobile is branding as “Extended Range 5G.” T-Mobile’s Extended Range 5G has better coverage potential than Ultra Capacity 5G, but Extended Range 5G will tend to deliver slower speeds.

I expect T-Mobile intentionally copied the word “ultra” from Verizon’s term 5G Ultra Wideband. While Verizon reserves the phrase Ultra Wideband for millimeter wave 5G, T-Mobile is using Ultra Capacity to refer to both mid-band and millimeter wave 5G.1 I’m guessing T-Mobile is hoping consumers will incorrectly conflate the two terms.

While I’m not a fan of T-Mobile’s deceptive naming, I have to acknowledge the company’s cleverness. T-Mobile is leading the nation in mid-band 5G coverage, but the network is way behind AT&T and Verizon in millimeter wave coverage. By using a single branded term for both mid-band 5G and millimeter wave 5G, T-Mobile can brag about how extensive its Ultra Capacity 5G coverage is without drawing attention to how little millimeter wave coverage the network offers.

T-Mobile’s Update On Mid-Band 5G

In today’s press release from T-Mobile, the company claims that it has doubled the number of cities where it offers mid-band 5G service over the last month. The company expects to further expand mid-band, 5G coverage by the end of 2020:

Engineers are lighting up 1,000 sites per month with 2.5 GHz 5G and T-Mobile has plans to cover 100 million people with mid-band 5G by the end of the year.

While the press release involves an obnoxious amount of hype and marketing-speak, I think T-Mobile’s basic claim that mid-band service will bring consumers what they expect from 5G is more-or-less accurate. Low-band 5G doesn’t deliver speeds much better than what consumers are used to with LTE connections. Millimeter wave 5G coverage is still extremely sparse. With mid-band 5G, network operators can offer high speeds while still covering decent-sized areas.

For more information, see my page dedicated to T-Mobile’s 5G strategy.

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.

On Visible’s website, the carrier shares more information about its plans for 5G.

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.