Verizon's Cheapest Plans Will Only Get You Its Slowest 5G Speeds

Illustration for article titled Verizon's Cheapest Plans Will Only Get You Its Slowest 5G Speeds
Photo: David Ramos (Getty Images)

Bad news for folks on Verizon’s basic plans. If you want the carrier’s faster 5G speeds, you’re going to have to cough up for a more expensive unlimited plan.

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Technically that’s nothing new. Verizon has already restricted its faster millimeter-wave (mmWave) network to customers on its Play More, Do More, and Get More Unlimited plans. However, per the Verge, Verizon also confirmed that it’s also going to exclude its newly obtained C-band frequencies from its basic plans as well. C-band is expected to improve Verizon’s overall 5G speeds, but if you want to stay on the Metered or Unlimited Plans, you won’t be seeing that speed boost.

Right now, Verizon’s nationwide 5G network—the one that is available to Unlimited and Metered plan customers—operates mostly on a sub-6 Ghz spectrum. The speeds don’t, shall we say, really live up to the hype. In reality, its nationwide network delivers speeds that are a lot closer to LTE. Meanwhile, Verizon’s mmWave 5G network operates on a high-band frequency. While it’s much faster, it has a shorter range and coverage is spotty because signals can be easily blocked by trees, buildings, and other objects.

Conversely, C-band is a mid-band spectrum. The benefit of mid-band spectrum is that you get faster speeds than low-band frequencies, without the range and coverage limitations of high-band frequencies. This is a big reason why Verizon recently plunked down a whopping $45.4 billion at an FCC auction to obtain more C-band spectrum, trouncing the $23.4 billion and $9.3 billion spent by AT&T and T-Mobile, respectively. The end result is that Verizon’s more than doubled its existing mid-band spectrum. On top of that, Verizon said in its investor presentation that it plans to spend another $10 billion to roll out C-band spectrum over the next three years.

Given the enormous cost, it’s not surprising that Verizon is using C-band as a carrot to get customers to upgrade their plans. Verizon Consumer Group CEO Ronan Dunne said the carrier had “seen tremendous step-ups from our customers from Metered to Unlimited and Unlimited to Premium Unlimited” and that over 20% of customers ended the year on a premium unlimited plan. He added that Verizon expects that percentage to go up to 30% this year, and nearly 50% by 2023.

“With C-band included, we think step-ups to premium will only accelerate,” Dunne said.

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At least Verizon customers won’t have to worry if their phones will be C-band compatible. In a press release, the carrier noted that 70% of 5G devices—including the iPhone 12 lineup, Samsung Galaxy S21 series, and the Pixel 5—are already C-band compatible. It also clarified that going forward, all 5G smartphones sold by Verizon would also be C-band compatible.

Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.

DISCUSSION

So wait... If you pay less, you get less?  Weird.