While 5G is still in the early days of its development, now that Verizon has flipped the switch on its 5G network in New York City (alongside activating 5G in Boise, Idaho and Panama City, Florida), there’s another major battleground in the quest for 5G supremacy.
Back in April, Verizon was the first carrier to turn on a 5G network, and since then has expanded its 5G coverage to more than 10 other cities including Detroit, Atlanta, and Phoenix. But at the same time, other carriers have been working on their 5G deployments too, with T-Mobile and Sprint already have turned on 5G in NYC earlier this summer.
Following Atlanta, NYC is now second major 5G battleground where all four major U.S. carriers have operational 5G networks, though only three of those networks are accessible to the general consumer. (AT&T has 5G networks running in 21 cities including NYC; however, AT&T’s 5G is currently only available to business customers.)
After getting a chance to briefly test out Verizon’s 5G network in NYC for myself, it’s sort of impressive seeing how much things have improved in just the last six months. When I first tried out Verizon 5G in Chicago, network speeds topped out at between 500 and 600 Mbps.
But this week at two different test locations in Manhattan, I hit over 1,000 Mbps, with the highest data point topping out at 1,377 Mbps. That was fast enough to download entire seasons of shows from Netflix in under a minute, something that could come in handy for anyone who needs some grab some last-minute entertainment before getting on a plane.
Admittedly, while that kind of speed is nice, that scenario is also relatively unique, and for a lot of people speeds of just 100 or 200 Mbps would be more than sufficient for today’s needs. But still, seeing the pace at which carriers are expanding 5G networks while also increasing bandwidth suggests that the upgrade to 5G will be swifter than the transition from 3G to 4G, in dense urban areas at least.
At the same time, many of the same issues surrounding Verizon’s mmWave 5G coverage still persist. Sure, you can hit pockets of 5G in parts of the city including Midtown, Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen, downtown Brooklyn, the Financial District, and even parts of the Bronx, coverage remains somewhat spotty, with 5G signal only extending a couple of blocks from nearby cell nodes. Furthermore, aside from Verizon providing a general list of neighborhoods and attractions where new cellular nodes have been deployed, Verizon still doesn’t have an easy way to verify which areas actually have 5G coverage.
For the time being, Verizon is focusing on deploying 5G to big parks and tourist attractions like Madison Square Garden and Bryant Park, which means 5G still isn’t super useful for the average person. On top of that, Verizon 5G only carries downstream data, which means any uploading you do is still being carried over slower 4G. And this is all factoring in some of the early limitations of using mmWave frequencies, which have a hard time penetrating walls and even clear glass windows.
I’ve said it before, and it still holds true now, 5G remains an incredibly hard sell for a normal person in 2019. However, for something that’s been lauded as the next-generation of communication, seeing the pace of these developments is at least somewhat encouraging.
Before things like smart highways with flying cars and streaming VR can ever happen, we have to build out the networks first. So even though it’s still too early to buy a 5G phone, the 5G movement is definitely gaining momentum.