How fast is 5G? What you need to know about 5G speeds

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Cell telephone building shooting disconnected pinkish beams pinch a 5G logo adjacent to it.T-Mobile

The latest cellular web standard, 5G, has yet travel of age. Over nan past 2 years, U.S. carriers person rolled retired their 5G networks acold and wide, collectively bringing 5G disposable to complete 90% of nan country’s population, it’s go beautiful difficult to find a modern smartphone that doesn’t connection astatine slightest immoderate spirit of 5G connectivity.

This intends that unless you haven’t upgraded your telephone successful a while aliases you unrecorded successful a agrarian area that’s not yet wrong nan scope of 5G, there’s a bully chance you already person a 5G smartphone and person knowledgeable astatine slightest immoderate 5G coverage. Still, pinch each nan excitement astir 5G technology, you whitethorn beryllium wondering precisely really accelerated it’s really expected to beryllium — particularly if your acquisition doesn’t lucifer up to nan hype.

Just for illustration nan 4G/LTE networks that person been astir for nan past decade aliases so, location are a batch of factors that adhd up to find whether you get nan fastest and champion 5G speeds, including your prime of phone, your carrier, really acold you are distant from nan champion towers, and really galore group you’re sharing those towers with. However, these are much pronounced successful nan 5G era since nan newer exertion leaves america hoping for faster speeds, and yet 5G runs connected a broader spectrum of frequencies, which mixes things up moreover more.

There’s nary uncertainty that 5G offers a batch of benefits complete 4G, but for illustration immoderate caller technology, location person been immoderate increasing pains it’s had to activity through. Thankfully, we’re past nan early stages of 5G deployments, and capacity and sum crossed each carriers is importantly amended now than it was 2 years ago. Here’s everything you request to know.

Theoretical 5G speed

Image utilized pinch support by copyright holder

Theoretically, 5G offers nan imaginable for staggering 10Gbps speeds that would person been unthinkable successful nan early days of cellular technology. However, for illustration reference immoderate spec sheet, it’s important to retrieve that these are theoretical maximums that you’ll apt ne'er deed successful nan existent world.

One important point to support successful mind is that this 10Gbps number that’s often cited refers to nan maximum full bandwidth disposable to each 5G devices connected to a azygous power transceiver connected a cellular tower. Individual devices person neither nan chips nor nan antennas to scope these kinds of speeds moreover erstwhile sitting correct beside a tower; instead, nan 10Gbps is designed to beryllium shared crossed dozens, aliases moreover hundreds, of devices, ensuring that everyone tin get nan champion imaginable performance. It’s nan aforesaid rule that’s existent connected a smaller standard pinch the Wi-Fi 6 router successful your home.

While we dislike to usage nan connection “never,” we’re beautiful improbable to spot immoderate user devices hitting these highest 5G speeds, astatine slightest not earlier we spot the rollout of next-generation 6G technology.

However, conscionable to adhd a spot of perspective, here’s a array to comparison nan theoretical speeds of 5G exertion against different generations of wireless technology:

Generation 2.5G (GPRS) 2.75G (EDGE) 3G 3G HSPA+ 4G 4G LTE-A 5G
Max speed 171Kbps 384Kbps 7.2Mbps 42Mbps 150Mbps 1Gbps 10Gbps
Average speed 50kbps 100kbps 1.5Mbps 5Mbps 10Mbps 50Mbps 150Mbps

Again, retrieve that each these numbers are theoretical maximums. Nobody ever sewage 1Gbps download speeds connected 4G LTE-A, and arsenic quaint arsenic it now sounds, those of america who retrieve nan halcyon days of EDGE information would person scoffed astatine nan thought of moreover getting 300Mpbs connected an original 2007 iPhone aliases Nokia N95.

Likewise, nan averages present are approximate, and each nan different technologies complicate nan results because each procreation has evolved and continues to turn moreover aft nan adjacent procreation starts to rotation out. There’s besides nan rumor of carriers mislabeling their networks; galore branded 3G HSPA+ arsenic 4G, and there was besides AT&T’s “5G E” stunt a fewer years ago, which tried to person customers that 4G LTE-A was a “5G Evolution.”

Real-world 5G download speeds

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G held successful manus showing disconnected exteriorChristine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Complicating things further, location are 3 different “flavors” of 5G that tin dramatically impact your existent download speeds, depending connected which 1 you’re connected to. Unlike nan cellular technologies that came before, 5G has dispersed crossed a overmuch much extended scope of frequencies, and nan ones that connection nan fastest speeds thin to beryllium disposable successful nan fewest places.

This isn’t nan carriers colluding to limit speeds but alternatively conscionable nan laws of physics astatine work. If you’ve ever group up a dual-band aliases tri-band Wi-Fi router successful your home, you’ve astir apt already encountered nan reality that nan little 2.4GHz frequencies screen much area but present overmuch slower speeds than nan shorter-range 5GHz radios. The aforesaid applies to cellular frequencies connected a overmuch grander scale.

This isn’t nan carriers colluding to limit speeds but alternatively conscionable nan laws of physics astatine work.

While 5G runs crossed galore much bands, these tin beryllium categorized into 3 chopped groups. Low-band 5G mostly includes each nan frequencies that run beneath 2.3GHz which supply extended scope but speeds that are small amended than 4G/LTE. It besides doesn’t thief that 5G often runs connected nan aforesaid frequencies arsenic 4G/LTE signals and truthful has to output right-of-way to that older postulation utilizing a newer 5G exertion known arsenic Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS). This intends that 4G/LTE devices ever get privilege connected those frequencies, slowing 5G users down moreover more.

On nan different end, high-band mmWave operates successful nan comparative stratosphere of Extremely High Frequency (EHF) power signals, starting astatine astir 24GHz, delivering awesome speeds but screen that doesn’t spell overmuch beyond a metropolis block. More recently, carriers person recovered a saccharine spot pinch midrange 5G, which starts astatine astir 2.5GHz and includes nan 3.7–3.98GHz C-band frequencies. These present nan champion of some worlds, offering decent scope without compromising excessively overmuch connected performance.

There’s besides an further information present erstwhile it comes to these frequencies and wide speeds. As we touched connected earlier, nobody’s smartphone lives successful a vacuum; you’re sharing these frequencies pinch everybody other connected to nan aforesaid building arsenic you are. Whatever bandwidth that building has disposable has to beryllium divvied up betwixt each instrumentality that wants a portion of it. This is why you’ll typically find nan fastest mmWave transceivers successful built-up areas for illustration stadiums and airports, where you could easy person 70,000 group vying for 5G service.

Image utilized pinch support by copyright holder

So, really does this play retired successful nan existent world? Well, nan extended scope of low-band 5G intends that nan “nationwide” networks connected each 3 carriers trust connected these frequencies to scope arsenic galore group arsenic possible. While T-Mobile was nan first to rotation retired a nationwide 5G web to each 50 states, it relied connected its 600MHz spectrum — nan bottommost of nan cellular wave scope and nan slowest of them all. AT&T parked astir of its low-band 5G connected nan 850MHz and 1900MHz (1.9GHz) range, piggybacking it connected its 4G/LTE towers utilizing DSS. Verizon was past to spell nationwide successful precocious 2022, deploying its low-band 5G web successful mostly nan aforesaid measurement that AT&T had.

The results of these early rollouts were 5G speeds that were seldom overmuch amended than 4G/LTE and, successful immoderate cases, whitethorn person moreover been worse. In fact, successful precocious 2020, Verizon’s DSS was truthful bad that PCMag’s Sascha Segan dubbed it a “desperately slow system” and told Verizon iPhone users they were amended disconnected disabling 5G entirely.

Thankfully, a batch has changed since then. By early 2021, T-Mobile has already begun rolling retired what it now calls its 5G Ultra Capacity network, a mid-band 2.5GHz 5G work utilizing the spectrum it picked up from its merger pinch Sprint. A twelvemonth later, Verizon joined nan crippled pinch its newly-acquired 3.7–3.98GHz C-band spectrum, expanding its 5G Ultra Wideband network good beyond the highly uncommon mmWave towers it had group up successful municipality centers. AT&T besides began rolling retired its ain artifact of C-band spectrum astir nan aforesaid time, though it’s been doing truthful overmuch much conservatively.

Hold holding 3 phones from 3 different carriers.Adam Doud / Digital Trends

Today, you’ll mostly find that astir municipality areas are covered by midband 5G, astatine slightest connected Verizon and T-Mobile. In March, Verizon revealed that its 5G Ultra Wideband web now covers complete 200 cardinal people, while T-Mobile’s 5G Ultra Capacity covers 275 million arsenic of July, and it plans to scope 300 cardinal by nan extremity of 2023. Sadly, AT&T continues to lag behind, pinch its 5G Plus web only disposable successful “limited areas” of astir 50 cities.

These differences successful sum are reflected successful nan latest market reports from Ookla and Opensignal, which measurement median and mean 5G download speeds and different capacity metrics crossed nan United States. These reports travel retired each 3 months, and while T-Mobile has maintained a accordant lead acknowledgment to its large caput commencement connected midrange 5G deployments, Verizon has been slow edging closer, while AT&T’s poorer sum leaves it trailing down arsenic each nan folks connected its low-band DSS 5G propulsion down its scores.

The latest numbers show T-Mobile measurement up pinch an wide average/median of astir 200Mbps, while Verizon clocks successful astatine astir 100Mbps, and AT&T comes successful astatine 80Mbps

Verizon has been slow edging closer, while AT&T’s poorer sum leaves it trailing behind.

Of course, median and mean download speeds don’t show nan full story. If anything, they mostly conscionable bespeak really galore group are getting nan champion speeds connected each carrier’s network. Under perfect conditions, Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband (5G UW) work tin supply nan aforesaid highest speeds arsenic T-Mobile’s 5G Ultra Capacity (5G UC); it’s conscionable that T-Mobile customers are doubly arsenic apt to find 5G UC sum than those connected Verizon, who will apt find themselves much often dropping to slower low-band 5G.

Nevertheless, overmuch of this depends connected wherever you live, work, and different travel. Many Verizon and moreover AT&T customers are very happy pinch their 5G capacity because they’re fortunate capable ne'er to rotation distant from their carriers’ 5G UW aliases 5G+ networks.

Lastly, nan speeds highlighted successful these reports shouldn’t beryllium taken arsenic nan maximum speeds you’ll get connected each carrier’s network. Many T-Mobile and Verizon customers person seen highest 5G speeds of good complete 1Gbps. That’s particularly existent pinch mmWave coverage, but 1Gbps isn’t retired of scope connected C-band frequencies. Plus, T-Mobile has been playing pinch 5G bearer aggregation (5G CA) exertion that could let customers scope mmWave-like 3Gbps speeds by combining longer-range midband frequencies.

Latency and 5G speed

Speedtest results connected a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.AT&T 5G astatine Leaning Tower, Niles Adam Doud / Digital Trends

As awesome arsenic these download speeds sound connected paper, nan reality is that astir smartphone users really don’t request to propulsion down nan monolithic amounts of information that would make them necessary. Consider that moreover a 4K UHD video watercourse typically only requires speeds of astir 25–40Mbps. Where 5G makes nan biggest effect connected mobile devices isn’t download speeds — it’s latency.

Latency refers to really agelong it takes to found connections complete a integer connection network, and it’s a overmuch much important metric for nan measurement we typically usage our smartphones. For example, surfing nan web, chatting via instant messaging apps, and gaming each trust connected dozens aliases moreover hundreds of individual connections that speech comparatively mini bits of data. The fastest download speeds won’t thief present if each relationship takes longer to establish, conscionable for illustration having nan fastest pitchy level successful nan world to present a package won’t do you overmuch bully if nan unit takes an unreasonably agelong clip to load it up and get it disconnected nan runway.

Verizon shop beforehand displays nan 5G web successful NYC.SOPA Images / Getty Image

“The presence of 5G will undoubtedly bring higher speeds for extremity users — but those speeds will alteration depending connected really operators creation their networks and really galore users are connected nan network,” Els Baert, head of trading and communications astatine NetComm, told Digital Trends successful an interview. “Although 5G will beryllium capable to present higher speeds, nan main quality extremity users will announcement will beryllium nan extra-low latency connected 5G compared to 3G aliases 4G — this will unfastened up caller applications successful nan Internet of Things space.”

Where 5G makes nan biggest effect connected mobile devices isn’t download speeds — it’s latency.

According to a white paper from nan Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance, which helped found standards, 5G networks should connection 10ms latency successful wide and 1ms for typical cases that require little latency. The study besides suggests that “data rates up to 1Gbps should beryllium supported successful immoderate circumstantial environments, for illustration indoor offices, while astatine slightest 50Mbps shall beryllium disposable everywhere.”

The bully news is that these little latencies aren’t limited connected having nan champion 5G download speeds. In fact, contempt offering slower speeds, Verizon often wins successful Opensignal’s reports erstwhile it comes to 5G gaming experiences. Ookla’s reports besides show Verizon and T-Mobile are neck-in-neck erstwhile it comes to median multi-server latency, which measures really agelong it takes to ping various servers astir nan internet.

How accelerated is 5G successful 2023?

OnePlus Nord N300 5G velocity test.Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Although 5G service and 5G phones are now wide available, it’s not nan superfast replacement to 4G that galore person dreamed of, and there’s a bully chance it will ne'er afloat unrecorded up to nan hype, astatine slightest not for those who measurement its occurrence by earthy download speeds.

There are pockets moreover coming wherever you tin get mind-blowing multi-gigabit download speeds, but those are still uncommon exceptions, and while they’ll apt go a spot much common, they’ll ever beryllium offset by slower 5G successful congested mid-band areas and, of course, nan low-band 5G zones wherever you’ll announcement insignificant velocity improvements astatine best. Carriers simply aren’t astir to deploy nan millions of towers crossed nan U.S. scenery that would beryllium needed to present ultrafast 5G capacity everywhere, and nan past fewer marketplace reports person suggested that mean 5G speeds are plateauing astatine nan 200Mbps mark.

Still, what’s important isn’t nan earthy velocity but alternatively nan different improvements that 5G brings to nan table, including nan debased latency that will make our smartphones consciousness overmuch much responsive and alteration technologies for illustration autonomous cars to speech information near-instantaneously. Plus, arsenic 4G/LTE slow rides disconnected into nan sunset, low-band 5G frequencies will nary longer request to contend pinch sharing nan integer highway, resulting successful amended speeds for those who unrecorded aliases rotation into little populated areas covered only by low-band 5G.

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