Verizon’s 5G ‘Nationwide’ and the Challenge of Speed

Verizon’s 5G ‘Nationwide’ and the Challenge of Speed

Verizon leaped to the 5G stardom with the announcement that it is expanding 5G ‘nationwide’ wireless with short-range millimeter-wave. The service covers 55 American cities and boasts to be the fastest in the world.

Existing 5G networks in US cities are reportedly slower than 4G, dampening the interest of potential users and putting China and some other countries ahead of the US in 5G roll out.

The news of Verizon’s roll out of the 5G nationwide network comes in the week when Apple launched the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max 5G enabled phones. Verizon’s CEO Hans Vestberg boasted of the speed at the Apple event: “You can be assured there’s no faster 5G on Earth,” he said.

Tests conducted by PCmag shows that Verizon’s UWB 5g system – also known as high-band or nationwide 5G has shown spectacular speeds of sometimes over 2Gbps, though with little coverage. And the test it conducted in 26 cities back in the summer showed 4 percent of Verizon’s UWB 5G due to its short range.

According to the test, Verizon’s nationwide 5G will have the opposite problem. By sharing existing 4G channels with 4G devices, Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), provides 5G at 4G speeds.

Focusing on the speeding and performance of 5G UWB, Verizon has been expanding coverage in the past few months.

“Every single market that we’ve deployed has had a material increased in the number of nodes that are providing 5G UWB service,” said Adam Koeppe, Verizon’s SVP of network planning.

As many cities in the US get coverage, Verizon reflects on the struggles of 2019 that kept the speed of its 5G network slow. Koeppe said Verizon has been able to cover more places due to the availability of equipment that weren’t there.

“In 2019, one of the limitations we had in our deployment was the amount of equipment we could get from our infrastructure providers. We don’t have the limitation, so we’re able to launch significantly more nodes from the start,” he said.

Although there is significant improvement in coverage, challenges remain. Each UWB node still has the same problems there have been for the past year, though-great speed, but range of only about 800 feet and an inability to easily penetrate buildings and walls. Koeppe explained that Verizon is doing field work with repeaters and in-building panels to cover hard-to-get areas, and the first repeaters will start extending coverage later this year, but in-building panels will come in early 2021.

However, PCmag noted that speed in some cities is only as fast as 4G. The “nationwide” network covers 200 million people, and Verizon has been able to turn parts of its 850MHz (band n5) spectrum over to 5G when 4G customers aren’t using it.

The test indicated that users shouldn’t expect much better speeds than on 4G, because both the 4G and 5G networks share the same broad lanes. For 5G to shine, it needs big broad lanes to itself.

Another challenge comes with C-band, a swathe of midband spectrum that FCC will auction off in December. PCmag noted also that there is a question for future proofing, whether any of the newly launched 5G phones will support the C-band. Most of Verizon’s network is using 4G channels for 5G, which means, the network performance will basically be 4G.

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