As carriers continue expanding their 5G networks across the US, a new report shows how far they've come this year. And while Verizon has the least 5G coverage, its 5G speeds remain unmatched as even its 4G LTE network speeds "often rival the 5G speeds of other carriers," a Rootmetrics report showed Monday.
Rootmetrics performed 2.7 million tests across all 50 states during the first half of 2020, though it halted scouting between March and early June due to thepandemic.
Verizon has the least 5G coverage, according to the report. Its metro with the most 5G is Omaha, Nebraska, at just 0.7% coverage, compared with T-Mobile providing 63% of Jackson, Mississippi, with 5G. But Verizon still has the fastest median download speeds, at 255 megabits per second in its fastest city of Los Angeles compared to T-Mobile's fastest city of Hampton Roads, Virginia, with 82.5Mbps.
AT&T's greatest coverage footprint is in Columbus, Ohio, where its 5G network has reached 50%, and its fastest median speeds are 116Mbps in Phoenix.
But Rootmetrics says the disparity in coverage is simply due to the different 5G spectrum bands being used. "Verizon's lower 5G availability doesn't mean it isn't active with 5G; rather, it reflects the smaller coverage footprint of mmWave spectrum itself," the report notes.
The three major US carriers are using different radio waves for their 5G networks. Verizon uses high-band millimeter-wave 5G spectrum, which is limited to traveling short distances and being blocked by solid obstacles like buildings and trees. AT&T uses 850MHz spectrum for its low-band 5G network, which has better range but slower speeds. AT&T and Verizon will also be employing a new technology called Dynamic Spectrum Sharing to share 4G airwaves with 5G and improve performance.
T-Mobile also uses low-band 600MHz spectrum but is now also $26.5 billion merger with Sprint went through in April. Midband spectrum is faster than low-band, and travels further than high-band.since the carrier's
For their overall mobile networks including both 5G and LTE, Verizon scored highest after winning in the categories of reliability, accessibility, data and calls. But AT&T had the fastest speeds at 42Mbps on average for both LTE and 5G, according to the report, followed by Verizon at 36Mbps and T-Mobile at 20Mbps.
"These results reinforce what many of our customers already know: Verizon consistently provides the nation's most reliable network experience," said Kyle Malady, Verizon CTO. "We continue to accelerate the deployment of our 5G Ultra Wideband network and prepare to launch our nationwide 5G network this year."
AT&T and T-Mobile didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.