5G is already almost three times faster than 4G LTE
In one of the first real-world tests of 5G internet speeds, the mobile analytics company OpenSignal compared the maximum 4G LTE and 5G download speeds in eight countries that have launched a 5G network on a limited scale. OpenSignal found that, in all but one of the countries, 5G is faster than 4G LTE and, in the United States, 5G is already almost three times faster.
While mobile internet providers have made various claims about the internet speeds of their new 5G network, this real-world test proves that high-frequency, high-capacity networks immediately deliver in markets like the US. In fact, OpenSignal recorded a maximum 5G download speed of 1815 Mbps in the US, which is previously unheard of for mobile internet.
To measure maximum download speed accurately, OpenSignal uses a strict methodology that avoids the pitfalls of speed tests sponsored by mobile internet providers. For example, some tests place dedicated test servers close to users to inflate its measurements.
5G is Faster in the US Because Providers Can Easily Access the mmWave Radio Spectrum
Mobile internet providers in many countries are still struggling to access high frequency mmWave radio bands due to government regulations. Without access to the mmWave spectrum, it’s nearly impossible to launch a fast 5G network. In the United Kingdom, for example, the maximum 5G download speed is just 30% faster than the maximum 4G LTE download speed because providers only have access to 40 MHz of high-frequency spectrum.
In the US, providers already have access to large swaths of the mmWave spectrum. American providers build fast 5G networks by utilizing ultra-high frequency radio bands that provide fast speeds, but at low range. So far, these providers have launched a mobile 5G network in these cities:
- Verizon has launched mobile networks in parts of Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Providence, and St. Paul.
- AT&T has launched mobile networks for select customers in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Waco, Charlotte, Raleigh, Oklahoma City, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Austin, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.
- T-Mobile has launched mobile networks in Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York.
- Sprint has launched mobile networks in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and Kansas City.
These providers, along with smaller providers like C Spire and Starry, also provide installed 5G internet connections to an even wider range of cities. All providers plan to significantly expand the availability of their 5G service by the end of the year.
Rural Users Won’t Have Access to a 5G Network for Several More Years
Rural broadband experts Chandler Blake and Tanner Wentworth travelled to Las Vegas to attend CES 2019 to find out when and how the next generation of mobile broadband will reach rural customers. According to Wentworth, “We wanted to answer the question that a lot of people who call in want to know is, when will 5G be available to the [rural] public?”
“Potential customers sometimes ask if they lease a router from us that is designed to pick up 4G LTE signals from the cell phone towers will be warrantied if 5G is available. So, what we did was educate ourselves as much as we could with experts whose sole job at the CES was to field questions from people like us. We also sat in on a couple different lectures and interviews with experts, and engineers talking about 5G.”
While Verizon has experimented with installed 5G internet connections in smaller cities like Brockton, MA, and Bernardsville, NJ, most carriers are focusing on bringing 5G to major cities. “The main thing we took from those were that 5G is coming, but not until most likely 2020,” says Wentworth. “If the towers are built across the US sooner than that, they will be built in only the major cities. Rural 5G towers won’t be available for a while.”