2. Finally, faster 5G networks
You may have bought a 5G-capable phone by now, hoping to exploit the wickedly fast network speeds the wireless carriers have been crowing about for years. Only you haven’t quite experienced those speeds. Frankly, your 5G coverage has been only marginally better than the 4G LTE you had before, if that.
Your experience may start to improve on Jan. 19, when both AT&T and Verizon, following a two-week delay because of a standoff with Federal Aviation Administration officials worried about airline safety, switch on the 5G networks based on C-Band spectrum. This refers to a swath of radio airwaves the carriers spent billions of dollars on at auctions to access.
Without getting bogged down in the all-too-geeky details, these bands promise faster service and wider coverage. You will need a fairly recent state-of-the art smartphone from Apple, Google, Samsung or others, and you may have to opt in to one of your wireless carrier’s more expensive cellular plans.
Frank Boulben, Verizon Consumer Group’s chief revenue officer, says you will be able to access these broadband-like speeds at sporting events, concerts, malls and train stations. He touted peak speeds in Verizon’s case that are up to 10 times faster than 4G.
Boulben has a pitch for potential cord cutters, too: Faster 5G may be a viable alternative to cable.
You’ll know that you’re humming along with the fastest service on an AT&T phone if you see a 5G+ indicator in the display; that + reflects you’re in a coverage area able to access AT&T’s fastest 5G Plus service. On a Verizon phone, you will see 5G UW, with the UW short for the carrier’s top Ultra Wideband service.
And on T-Mobile, which was not involved in the recent spat over airline safety and which has already been employing its own spectrum to provide faster service, you will see 5G UC, signifying Ultra Capacity. If you see a 5G indicator without the +, UW or UC on any of these phones, you’re getting a less robust flavor of 5G.
Boulben acknowledges the confusion. But, he says, “we’ve been very consistent at Verizon in talking about 5G Ultra Wideband as the real 5G” … with the “benefits you expect from that technology.”