While Verizon’s 5G network has set download speed records in the parts of 34 cities where it’s available, the network’s small size and devices’ frequent need to fall back on 4G have continued to disappoint some potential customers. Now Verizon says it’s addressing some of those issues with a series of network improvements, most notably adding 5G uploads to most of its 5G markets, as well as adding one new city — San Diego — to the roster, bringing its tally up to 35. But as has been the case with so many of Verizon’s 5G announcements, today’s news comes with some non-trivial caveats.
From a big picture perspective, Verizon’s 5G launches have been important both as world’s firsts and as hints at what’s to come from one of the decade’s most transformative technologies. Verizon launched a four-city 5G Home broadband network in late 2018 with up to 1Gbps peak download speeds, followed by the 2019 launch of a mobile 5G network that it has branded “5G Ultra Wideband,” most recently delivering peak downloads in the 1.5Gbps range. These speeds are roughly 10 to 30 times faster than what cable modems and smartphones commonly deliver, though Verizon users need to be in very specific neighborhoods to access its 5G network.
For existing Verizon 5G users, switching from 4G to 5G uploads should be a welcome improvement, but not a huge one. The carrier says that upload speeds will “initially” be “about 30% faster than 4G LTE.” That’s nowhere near as fast as the speed improvements delivered by 5G downloads, but it’s enough to improve high-definition video sharing, cloud backups, and massive multiplayer gameplay. Until now, both Verizon and other carriers have refrained from using 5G for uploads, impacting performance and battery life in the process.
A bigger surprise: Verizon says its 5G upload and download coverage areas won’t necessarily be the same. While Verizon says users will be able to experience faster uploads in all of the company’s mobile 5G “Ultra Wideband” cities, as well as stadiums and arenas with that service and in the 5G Home market of Chicago, it has a small print disclaimer that its “5G upload coverage area differs from 5G download coverage area.” And it’s apparently not offering faster 5G uploads in other 5G Home markets.
Verizon continues to be limited by the modest scale of its 5G deployments in various cities. Reports have suggested the carrier offers as little as 3% actual 5G coverage in cities where it claims to be delivering 5G service, leaving users reliant largely on older, slower 4G technology most of the time. So while Verizon is expanding 5G to San Diego on May 28, that still doesn’t mean all or even most of San Diego. Instead, it will concentrate its service in four places: near the Westfield mall and SDCCU Stadium in Mission Valley, Linda Vista along Linda Vista Road, Kensington near El Cajon Boulevard, and Banker’s Hill on 1st Avenue.
The carrier also announced that it’s working with Movandi, Pivotal Compare, and Wistron NeWeb on millimeter wave extender technologies to expand its 5G service indoors and outdoors, enabling the notoriously short-range wireless signals to work inside buildings and within public spaces. Another collaboration with Qualcomm, NXP, and Movandi will see the companies work together on new chipset technology to improve 5G Home performance. Qualcomm plans to release a new and more capable Snapdragon X60 modem for 5G devices next year, and its latest 5G millimeter wave antenna solution QTM527 is set to appear in longer-distance home broadband modems later this year.