Technology

Verizon’s nationwide 5G will only be a “small” upgrade over 4G at first

A giant Verizon 5G logo in an expo hall.

Enlarge / A Verizon booth at Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles in September 2018. (credit: Verizon)

5G is one of the most hyped technologies in recent memory, but 5G hype continues to outpace evidence that it will meaningfully change the mobile experience for the majority of smartphone users in the US.

Verizon Communications CEO Hans Vestberg said yesterday during a J.P. Morgan investor conference that most 5G mobile users will see a “small” upgrade at first, and he stressed the continued relevance of 4G. Vestberg reiterated previous Verizon statements that the biggest improvements will come on millimeter-wave spectrum in the most densely populated and trafficked areas.

But millimeter-wave frequencies don’t travel as far as low- and mid-band radio waves and are easily blocked by walls and other obstacles, making them unsuitable for nationwide coverage. As such, Vestberg was asked whether consumers will see a noticeable difference between 4G and 5G in areas without millimeter-wave coverage. Vestberg said that customers will eventually see “dramatic improvements,” but not in the near term.

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