Verizon is downplaying 5G, when compared to 4G, saying customers will only see “some improvements” initially.
Verizon and T-Mobile have been locked in a battle over 5G, with the two carriers taking swipes at the other’s speed and coverage. T-Mobile has repeatedly emphasized the coverage of its nationwide 5G network, while Verizon has ran ads pointing out its 5G is faster and is “5G built right.”
Now, however, Verizon is downplaying the initial performance of its 5G, with CEO Hans Vestberg saying at the J.P. Morgan investors conference that, “in the beginning, you’re going to see some improvements. Over time, dramatic improvements,”
As we have covered repeatedly in previous articles, much of Verizon’s 5G issues stem from its focus on the high-band mmWave 5G. While offering speeds measured in gigabits, mmWave is notoriously short-range, requiring towers, repeaters and base stations every couple hundred meters. While this may be feasible in densely populated urban areas, mmWave is not practical for rural regions. As a result, while also unveiling mmWave in cities, T-Mobile has focused heavily on low-band 5G for its nationwide network. Low-band has far better range and building penetration, but provides only marginally better speeds than 4G.
In Verizon’s case, however, the carrier is at a disadvantage when it comes to low-band spectrum, especially compared to T-Mobile. Verizon’s 4G LTE network is primarily based on 700 MHz spectrum, which is largely responsible for Verizon’s legendary coverage. T-Mobile similarly uses 700 MHz spectrum for its 4G network, but deployed 600 MHz spectrum for its nationwide 5G, spectrum that theoretically has even better range and building penetration than either carrier’s 700 MHz 4G.
Verizon, however, does not have a wealth of 600 MHz low-band spectrum like T-Mobile. As a result, it has to rely on Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) technology to share its spectrum between 4G and 5G users for its low-band network. T-Mobile’s Neville Ray has warned about technical issues with DSS, and pointed out that the magenta carrier’s wealth of low-band spectrum means it is not dependent on DSS.
When asked during the conference about Verizon’s DSS plans, Vestberg simply said: “Our technology team are progressing on that.” Needless to say, that response is not reassuring given the issues that have come up with DSS.
Based on the investor conference, Verizon appears to finally be acknowledging, however indirectly, the challenges in providing a true, nationwide 5G network. In contrast, with T-Mobile’s abundance of low-band spectrum, and the absolute wealth of mid-range spectrum it acquired in the Sprint merger, T-Mobile continues to establish itself as THE carrier to beat in the 5G race.