Amid an ongoing battle with the FAA and the airline industry, Verizon today made the move to its mid-band 5G deployment, which leverages spectrum the company has spent tens of billions of dollars to acquire in its C-band auction. . The new, faster level of 5G connectivity will greatly expand Verizon’s “5G Ultra Wideband” network, which until now has relied solely on extremely fast, but very hard-to-find millimeter wave spectrum.
Mid-band 5G overcomes many of the hurdles that make mmW bear the brunt of jokes from competitors like T-Mobile: It’s actually available indoors, and coverage doesn’t vary so unpredictably from street to street. Customers with compatible phones should experience noticeably faster data speeds compared to Verizon’s “5G Nationwide” network which offers a widespread signal but with download and upload performance not much better than LTE in many cases.
In short, 5G is going to feel much more real to Verizon customers than ever before. Mid-band is a critical element of Verizon’s long-term 5G ambitions, bridging the gap between the slow 5G Nationwide and the barely existing, ultra-fast millimeter wave 5G.
Even on day one, the improvements are promising. Customers were quick the Verizon subreddit on Wednesday to post a slew of Ookla Speedtest screenshots, with download speeds regularly exceeding 600Mbps and in some cases even 800Mbps. Many see an average downlink between 300 and 400 Mbps, well above the performance of 5G Nationwide.
Which devices support Verizon’s new, faster C-band 5G?
At launch, the list of supported phones and tablets is quite short. Here are the devices that can already connect to Verizon’s C-band 5G:
- Apple iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max
- Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation), iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation), or iPad mini (6th generation)
- Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro
- Samsung Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, S21 Ultra, Z Fold 3, Z Flip 3
Verizon has said that all phones it releases from now on will support C-band 5G, and the carrier expects to offer more than 20 compatible phones by the end of 2022.
Where can I get Verizon’s C-band 5G?
Verizon has said it will provide a C-band coverage map at launch, but so far no such map is available on the carrier’s website — perhaps a result of 11-hour concessions to the FAA. You can expect just about every major metro market to have some degree of C-band coverage in January: The company has promised to reach “more than 100 million people in more than 1,700 cities across the country” this month with the faster taste of 5G. .
But it is an ongoing process and will not be immediately available everywhere. I’m located in downtown Brooklyn and still ride the slower 5G Nationwide network as of Wednesday afternoon.
How do I know if I’m using Verizon’s C-band 5G?
Verizon’s C-band 5G shares the same “5G Ultra Wideband” indicator in your phone’s status bar as millimeter wave 5G. That makes things a little confusing, but if you suddenly (and consistently) see “5G YOUR” pop up in places you’ve never had it before, that’s the best proof that your device is benefiting from the faster 5G.
How fast is it really?
Based on a lot of early testing, pretty fast – and on a completely different level than 5G Nationwide. Upload speeds aren’t spectacular, but many Verizon customers on C-band get download speeds that vary anywhere from 200 nasty 500Mbps and in the very best cases over 800Mbps. And these are in regions where mobile data used to be often around 60 or 80 Mbps, so the upgrade is significant.
Do I need to change my plan to get C-band 5G on Verizon?
Not necessary. The new, faster 5G is included in Verizon’s 5G Play More, 5G Do More, and 5G Get More Unlimited plans. Ahead of the C-band rollout, Verizon has slightly tweaked and tweaked those plans — with the top plan now offering truly unlimited 5G data. However, if you have an earlier version of those subscriptions and as the actual subscription features have changed, in most cases you will be automatically migrated to the new subscriptions within two billing cycles.
The exception to this is Verizon’s Start Unlimited plan, which doesn’t include 5G Ultra Wideband at all.
What about the whole airplane safety thing?
Don’t expect C-band speeds at your local airport for a while. Verizon and AT&T have reluctantly agreed to delay the activation of C-band 5G around many airports and are creating exclusion zones to address aircraft-related safety concerns that are still being voiced by the FAA.
Both airlines have strongly criticized the FAA for being unprepared for this moment. “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation’s airlines have failed to fully resolve 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries,” Verizon said in a statement.
If you’re a Verizon customer already using the faster mid-band 5G, share some of your impressions in the comments.