Verizon’s Approach To 5G
5G service can be neatly split between two buckets:
- Sub-6 5G: This 5G service uses the same frequencies used for 4G. Sub-6 5G is great for covering large areas and provides decent speeds. Verizon often refers to its sub-6 5G service as “5G Nationwide.”
- Millimeter wave 5G: This service uses extremely high-frequency waves. Millimeter wave 5G provides blazing-fast speeds, but it’s terrible for covering large areas. Verizon typically calls its millimeter wave 5G service “5G Ultra Wideband” or “5G UW.”
Verizon began its 5G rollouts with a focus on millimeter wave (mmWave) technology. At this time, Verizon has millimeter wave 5G coverage in parts of at least 61 cities, 48 stadiums, and 7 airports.
On October 13, 2020, Verizon launched sub-6 5G on a massive scale. Almost instantaneously, Verizon went from offering no sub-6 5G coverage to covering over 200 million Americans with sub-6 service. Verizon claims its sub-6 5G is now available in over 2,700 cities.
Verizon’s 5G Coverage
The coverage map below comes from Verizon. You can view a better, interactive version of the map on Verizon’s website.
Dots on the map mark cities with partial 5G Ultra Wideband coverage. Dark red shading indicates areas with 5G Nationwide coverage.
To date, Verizon has focused on rolling out 5G Nationwide in relatively populated areas. While 5G Nationwide covers most Americans (about 230 million by Verizon’s estimate), the service covers far less than 50% of the United States by land area.
Millimeter wave 5G coverage maps
Millimeter wave 5G is not good for covering large areas. The signals don’t travel far and struggle to penetrate buildings’ walls. As a result, Verizon’s 5G service is only available in small portions of the cities where it’s offered. For the most part, Verizon has tried to cover busy, outdoor areas.
To view Verizon’s millimeter wave coverage, you have to open Verizon’s coverage map and zoom in on one of the cities marked with a dark red dot. Once you’ve zoomed in sufficiently, you’ll see dark red shading that indicates where millimeter wave 5G coverage is available. Here’s what the map looks like when zoomed in on Chicago:1
In many cities, lighter shades (indicating technologies other than 5G mmWave) will dominate the map.2
Cities with millimeter wave 5G coverage
Verizon has begun deploying millimeter wave 5G in at least 61 cities.
- Ann Arbor
- Arlington (TX)
- Des Moines
- Grand Rapids
- Fort Wayne
- Hampton Roads
- Jersey City
- Kansas City
- Las Vegas
- Little Rock
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- Oklahoma City
- Panama City
- Salt Lake City
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- Sioux Falls
- St. Louis
- St. Paul
- St. Petersburg
- Washington D.C.
Verizon plans to add millimeter wave 5G to at least three more cities by the end of January:
- Colorado Springs
Millimeter wave coverage in stadiums & airports
According to Verizon, millimeter wave 5G is available in parts of 48 stadiums. Verizon has suggested the coverage tends to be concentrated in the lower seating areas at these venues.3
While the list below is not comprehensive, it includes about half of the stadiums where Verizon offers millimeter wave 5G. I hope to share a full list soon.
- Arrowhead Stadium
- CenturyLink Field
- Chase Center
- Citi Field
- Empower Field at Mile High
- Ford Field
- Gillette Stadium
- Golden 1 Center
- Hard Rock Stadium
- Lambeau Field
- Lucas Oil Stadium
- Mercedes-Benz Superdome
- MetLife Stadium
- Moda Center
- M&T Bank Stadium
- NRG Stadium
- Progressive Field
- Red Bull Arena
- SoFi Stadium
- Soldier Field
- State Farm Stadium
- Talking Stick Resort Arena
- U.S Bank Stadium
Millimeter wave coverage is also available in parts of these airports:
- Chicago O’Hare
- Des Moines
- John Glenn Columbus
- Milwaukee Mitchell
- Minneapolis-St Paul
- Salt Lake City
- San Antonio
Verizon’s 5G-compatible phones
Verizon offers about two dozen phones compatible with the network’s 5G service.
- Galaxy S20 5G UW
- Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G
- Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G
- Galaxy S20 FE 5G UW
- Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G
- Galaxy Note20 5G
- Galaxy Note10+ 5G
- Galaxy A71 5G UW
I expect Verizon will substantially expand its 5G coverage over the next few years. While millimeter wave 5G will never be used to cover the majority of the U.S., I anticipate seeing the service in a lot more cities.
Verizon’s other 5G services are also going to cover large areas. While Verizon’s sub-6 5G already covers 200 million Americans, it still only covers a small portion of the U.S. by land area. Overtime, Verizon will increasingly transition to offering 5G in areas where it only offers 4G at the moment.
Speeds on Verizon’s sub-6 5G should improve substantially. Currently, the service relies on low-frequency spectrum that’s great for coverage but limited in its speed potential. Soon, Verizon will start using more spectrum, including medium-frequency spectrum that’s better-suited for delivering fast speeds.
5G bands and frequencies
Verizon’s 5G relies on a handful of spectrum bands that only a handful of recent phones are compatible with:
Millimeter wave 5G:
- n260 (39GHz)
- n261 (28GHz)
- n5 (850 MHz)
Verizon will eventually launch sub-6 5G service using other bands.
Verizon’s 5G vs. the competition
Verizon leads the nation in millimeter wave 5G coverage. Based on the most recent information I’ve seen, Verizon has millimeter wave 5G in parts of 55 cities, while AT&T has coverage in 36 cities, and T-Mobile has coverage in only 6 cities.4 Still, even Verizon’s millimeter wave doesn’t cover that many people. While I haven’t seen official numbers, third-parties have estimated that Verizon’s millimeter wave covers about 0.5% of the U.S. population.
Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all cover over 200 million people with low-band 5G. It’s difficult to make firm statements since the 5G landscape is changing quickly, but I believe T-Mobile leads on low-band coverage, while AT&T and Verizon beat T-Mobile on low-band speeds.
Verizon offers two 5G-compatible mobile hotspots: the MiFi M2100 5G UW and the MiFi M1000. The M1000 is still available from Verizon, but it’s expensive and essentially out-of-date. The MiFi M2100 is the better choice in pretty much all situations. I’m currently reviewing the device.
Verizon’s 5G Home Internet provides households internet access using Verizon’s millimeter wave 5G. The service looks promising, but it’s only available in a limited number of cities:
- Los Angeles
- Saint Paul
Verizon plans to offer 5G Home Internet in parts of six more cities by the end of January, 2021:
- Arlington (TX)
- San Francisco
- St. Louis
Verizon’s 5G pricing
Verizon’s 5G Nationwide service is available at no extra charge for all subscribers with compatible devices on both postpaid and prepaid plans:5
5G Ultra Wideband service is included for free on a few of Verizon’s premium plans:6
- Play More Unlimited
- Do More Unlimited
- Get More Unlimited
Subscribers on Verizon’s Start Unlimited plan can add-on 5G Ultra Wideband service for $10 per month.7
Verizon plans to add 5G Ultra Wideband access for prepaid subscribers in early 2021.8
Verizon’s 5G speeds
Speeds with Verizon’s 5G services will vary widely. Factors like the kind of device being used, the strength of the 5G signal, and the frequency of the 5G signal will all come into play.
In most cases, Verizon’s 5G Nationwide service won’t deliver speeds that are a whole lot faster than subscribers are used to with 4G connections. With a strong signal from Verizon’s Nationwide 5G subscribers are likely to see speeds in the 50Mbps to 200Mbps range. Here’s a couple results from speed tests I ran:
With Verizon’s Ultra Wideband, speeds are much more impressive. Here’s one of my most impressive millimeter wave speed test results:
Eventually, I expect Verizon will launch extensive mid-band 5G. Mid-band service may be able to deliver speeds of several hundred megabits per second without the lackluster coverage potential of millimeter wave 5G.
Verizon has claimed it’s millimeter wave service is capable of impressive, 8x carrier aggregation. The excerpt below comes from a press release Verizon shared on December 17, 2020:
Last updated: January 9, 2020
- The screenshot came from Verizon’s website on 12/3/2020.
- There’s two main reasons for this: (a) Verizon is early in its millimeter wave deployments and (b) 5G mmWave works alright for covering streets and small outdoor areas, but the signals don’t travel far or penetrate buildings well.
- “5G Ultra Wideband Service is concentrated in the lower seating area but could be available in other locations in and around the stadium as well.”
The excerpt was taken from a Verizon FAQ page on 11/2/2020.
- These number are the most recent ones I’ve seen as of October 2020. Some networks have already expanded to more cities. I’m particularly unsure about the number of cities where T-Mobile currently offers millimeter wave 5G.
- The excerpt was take from one Verizon’ssupport pages on 11/2/2020.
- Subscribers on two of Verizon’s legacy plans, the Above Unlimited plan and the Beyond Unlimited plan, are also eligible for 5G Ultra Wideband service at no extra charge.
- As far as I can tell, it nearly always makes sense for subscribers on the Start Unlimited plan who want 5G Ultra Wideband to upgrade to a fancier plan instead of paying for the add-on.
- “5G Ultra Wideband is not available for prepaid plans at this time. 5G Ultra Wideband is coming to Prepaid in early 2021.”
The excerpt comes from the Verizon Prepaid FAQ.