Verizon 5G – Modding Up, Speeds, Coverage, and More
It’s early for Verizon 5G network. Probably too early. I consumed about six hours testing out Big Red’s brand-new 5G network.
On day 2 (Friday, April 5) of its launch in Chicago. It’s tiny and not very reliable. But it’s a beginning.
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- Right now, the only way to get on Verizon’s 5G network is by attaching a $350 Moto Mod accessory to your $480 Moto Z3 phone. Evan Blass, trustworthy leaker, says the first integrated 5G phone, the Galaxy S10 5G, is coming on May 16.
- The Z3 plus its Mod are bulkier than the S10 5G and less potent as a smartphone. Nonetheless, they’re also going to be much cheaper.
- At list price, you can get 5G with the Moto Z3 for $830. Here, the Galaxy S10 5G hasn’t been announced. Nonetheless, it will be higher than the Galaxy S10+, which starts at $999. I’m expecting $1,249.
- We’ve studied the Z3 and discussed the Mod before. When you snap it on, it takes the phone’s Modem functions and intelligences its battery and connection status.
- Approximately have called this “slapping a Wi-Fi hotspot onto a smartphone,” which isn’t exactly correct.
- Aimed at now, it doesn’t even work as a Wi-Fi hotspot; that’s coming in a future software update (the Mod currently works as a USB Modem, with a USB-C port on the bottom).
- Trendy any case, the hotspot mode uses 802.11ac, not 802.11ax, which means the Wi-Fi hotspot may end up slower than the 5G connection.
Speeds: Just Getting Started
- Verizon uses called millimeter wave (mmWave) that potentials extremely high speeds but has a concise range from towers.
- Speeds too drop off quickly as you walk absent from a cell site or if you go indoors. Currently, the mmWave cell sites can usage up to 400MHz of the spectrum.
- Verizon speaks it has 800MHz or more of spectrum in many areas, and it’ll be able to use that when it gets the appropriate software update. That will dramatically increase speeds.
- Ultimately, mmWave should enable tremendous speeds. Ericsson, Verizon’s substructure vendor in Chicago, made some grand promises in a 2018 white paper.
- The “An NR 200MHz TDD system at 26GHz can deliver excellent DL coverage to outdoor users—for example, 50-60 percent approaching 1Gbps.
- Through larger spectrum distributions such as 400MHz, it is possible to reach multi-Gbps speeds,” the company says. Verizon is, in detail, using 400MHz in Chicago, and it has beefy fiber backhaul.
- In actual life, I saw a maximum of 600Mbps when, in theory, using 400MHz of the spectrum should enable up to 2.4Gbps on mmWave 5G NR. That’s all down to, guess what? Early software.
- “Quite frankly, it’s successful in increasing rapidly,” Verizon network engineering VP Mike Haberman told me.
- It’s too important to note that not everyone is using mmWave or wholly using mmWave. Both AT&T and T-Mobile will be socializing mmWave with low-band 5G.
- It will probably have coverage and drop-off trends a lot more like LTE and speeds 30 to 50 percent faster than LTE.
- According to the carrier, the Sprint is using mid-band 5G, which will have coverage alike to Sprint’s 4G network and speeds in the 400 to 600Mbps range.
Coverage: Pretty Limited
- Verizon 5G speaks it covers the Loop, West Loop, and north of the Loop in Chicago, basically up to North Avenue.
- I walked everywhere for three hours and found that coverage is very spotty and doesn’t extend north of Chicago Avenue.
- Nonetheless, I also found towers that looked like they hadn’t entirely been turned on yet, or where I suspect Verizon is about to install
5G equipment—there’s a string of towers along North Avenue, every few blocks from Sedgwick to the lake.
- That looks almost ready to go, and my 5G indicator briefly flickered on at the corner of North and LaSalle.
- It didn’t twig reliably enough to be captured by my coverage routine or for me to run a speed test. I’m guessing that’s one of a group of sites that aren’t entirely on yet.
Range: Not Quite There Yet
- Verizon 5G told me its places have about 800 feet of range. I saw more like 300 feet of real content, with speeds dropping below LTE levels beyond that.
- Smooth through my 5G indicator would dutifully glimmer on until about 450 feet. The Mod seems powerless to judge when a 4G connection would be better than a 5G one.
- Consequently, it hangs on to 5G for dear life, even if it’s just eking out a few megabits. A phone should perhaps prefer a good lower-gen connection over a poor higher-gen one.
- The chart overhead shows the speeds measured at 50-foot intervals walking south along Michigan Avenue from a cell site.
- I reason what we see on the LTE line is not LTE as most people know it, but LAA, the short-range LTE that uses Wi-Fi airwaves, typically drops off after 200 feet.
- The message that the 5G site has pretty much a similar curve as the LAA site does. No, I don’t know what occurred with the LTE phone at 350 feet.
- This chart demonstrations the speed drop-offs at two different 5G sites, drumming one from two different angles.
- By the orange line, there was an elevated train trestle between the 50 and 100-foot marks. That appeared to interrupt the signal, which was then sluggish but stable for the next 200 feet.
- Here the yellow line is the same cell site as the gray one, but walking at a right angle to the other, unhappy a narrow street between large stone buildings. That also seemed to kill speeds.
- Verizon and everybody else in the industry tells me that these sort of drop-offs will be fixed by healthier beam-forming and beam-steering, coming, you guessed it, in a future software update.
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