Closeups Photo Of Mobile Phone Connected To 5G Network
Better than broadband speeds. The ability to stream 4K resolution video while on the go. The promises of 5G have been all over. Every major network — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint — has made some variation on the claim of having the fastest, best, or most expansive 5G network in the United States. Yet most 5G users have been underwhelmed by these networks. These networks are new and still being developed and built out, but research from Speedcheck shows that 5G networks have thus far not lived up to the hype.
First, the good news. 5G deployment across the United States does seem to be progressing. Data from WhistleOut found that T-Mobile has the most 5G coverage of any carrier, covering 36.7 percent of the country. AT&T covers just shy of 16 percent of the U.S., while Verizon has deployed its 5G network for just one-tenth of the country. All states, save for Alaska, have at least some 5G coverage available, typically centered around major cities with large populations.
According to Speedcheck, these networks do occasionally provide speeds that are noticeably faster than 4G LTE networks. AT&T’s network provided a median speed of about 53Mbps. T-Mobile’s network delivered median speeds around 47Mbps, while Verizon achieved median speeds of just 44Mbps. Speedcheck found that 5G networks provided, on average, download speeds that were about 2.7 times faster than 4G LTE networks, with peak speeds about six-fold faster than the previous generation network.
However, 5G networks have not always outperformed 4G LTE in a significant way. In fact, Speedcheck found that in nearly 30 percent of cases, 5G provided either a marginal improvement in download speed or actually underperformed the 4G LTE network. In about 12 percent of tests, the latter was the case, with 5G offering speeds slower than the available 4G connection.
Even at their peak, the 5G networks are underperforming their promise. 5G optimists have suggested that the network could offer speeds that are 600 times faster than a standard 4G network and 10 times faster than a fiber internet connection. That has clearly not been the case. Nearly tripling the speed of 4G LTE is certainly a feat, but not one that will allow the 5G network to live up to the game-changer status that some have claimed.
There are a number of reasons why 5G has underperformed thus far. Regulators have at times dragged their feet in auctioning off the necessary frequencies that carriers need access to in order to deploy 5G — though a major auction was held late in January that is expected to accelerate the development of these networks. Governmental conflicts between the United States and China made it harder for mobile carriers to work with companies like Huawei, which are typically reliable sources for mobile networking technology.
Despite these hangups that have caused 5G to underwhelm thus far, the networks are expected to continue to ramp up. By the end of 2021, the results still may not approach the highest aspirations for 5G, but the networks should see expanded reach and improved performance.
I’m a freelance reporter and editor with nearly a decade of experience covering all aspects of tech. I joined the Daily Dot in 2014 to cover internet culture, moved to