When discussing its 5G network, Verizon often splits its 5G services into two categories: 5G Nationwide and 5G Ultra Wideband. These two categories of 5G are very different.
- 5G Nationwide: This 5G uses Verizon’s low-frequency spectrum. It’s widely available and covers over 200 million Americans. While Verizon’s 5G Nationwide service has solid coverage, it’s not all that fast. Data speeds under 5G Nationwide coverage tend to be similar to speeds consumers are used to with 4G connections.
- 5G Ultra Wideband: This 5G service uses Verizon’s extremely high-frequency spectrum. Its coverage profile is tiny, but the service is extremely fast. At the moment, Verizon only offers the service in select parts of 55 cities. 5G Ultra Wideband signals don’t travel far and struggle to penetrate buildings’ walls.
5G Nationwide service is available with most of Verizon’s plans. 5G Ultra Wideband service is reserved for Verizon’s premium plans. If you’re wondering whether it’s ok to choose a plan that doesn’t include 5G Ultra Wideband, I wouldn’t sweat it. Due to the service’s tiny coverage profile, most subscribers will rarely be in places where 5G Ultra Wideband is offered. While the speeds delivered by 5G Ultra Wideband are impressive, there aren’t many cases where consumers will benefit from the extreme speeds.
I took the coverage map snapshot below in October 2020. You can access a better, interactive version of the map on Verizon’s website.
Looking to the future
Verizon will steadily expand its 5G Ultra Wideband coverage. However, 5G Ultra Wideband will remain reserved for densely populated areas. It will never be economical for Verizon to covering large swaths of the U.S. with 5G Ultra Wideband.
While Verizon’s Nationwide 5G isn’t all that fast, I expect it to deliver better speeds in the future. So far, Verizon has built out the service using low-frequency spectrum that is great for coverage but mediocre for speeds. Going forward, I expect Verizon to dedicate more mid-band spectrum to the service. The mid-band spectrum should enable faster speeds.
Verizon’s 5G services will only work for subscribers will 5G-compatible phones. Verizon’s online store shares the carrier’s current lineup of 5G-compatible devices. If you don’t have a 5G-compatible phone, you shouldn’t worry. Verizon will continue to offer excellent 4G coverage for the foreseeable future.