What is 5G and is it worth the upgrade?

If you need faster mobile data, or if you’re about to upgrade your phone, you may be wondering if 5G is worth paying for.

In this article, I’ll explain what 5G is, where you can find the best 5G coverage and how to decide if it’s worth upgrading your phone or service plan.

I’ve researched the best and most expensive phones and service plans that offer 5G, and looked at coverage maps to see how much 5G actually costs and who can benefit from it.

table of contents:

What is 5G?

5G is the latest generation of mobile network after 4G/LTE. With 5G, you can expect faster download speeds when using mobile data, lower latency (the time a device takes to respond to information or an action), increased reliability and increased network capacity.

Basically, 5G is faster and more stable than 4G, and it is capable of connecting more devices.

While 2022 is a big year for 5G in terms of network expansion and hardware availability, it is not yet fully established. T-Mobile has been expanding its 5G network for some time now, but AT&T and Verizon are still working on bringing more coverage to rural areas.

To get a better idea of ​​how 5G works, here’s a brief description from Business Insider:

The 5G standard uses millimeter waves, which are much shorter than the wavelengths 4G uses. The shorter wavelength means that 5G can carry a lot of data much faster than 4G, but it also means a much shorter range. 4G wavelengths have a range of about 10 miles. 5G wavelengths have a range of about 1,000 feet, net up to 2% of 4G band.

finally, While 5G offers higher speeds, it is not yet accessible across the board. Since 5G is not available everywhere and not every device supports 5G service, many people are wondering if 5G is worth paying more money for right now.

Who has the best 5G coverage?

If you are considering upgrading to 5G, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is whether or not you will be able to access 5G service in your area. This will mainly depend on the phone service provider you are using.

According to a recent study published by RootMetrics, T-Mobile delivered the best 5G experience in the second half of 2021. T-Mobile won in two of three categories: 5G availability and 5G speed. Verizon won the third category: 5G reliability.

To get a better idea of ​​the 5G service offered by each of the major phone service providers and their MVNOs, I checked each carrier’s coverage map and RootMetrics test results:

5G coverage from T-Mobile

According to RootMetrics, T-Mobile delivered the best overall 5G experience in the second half of 2021.

In the first half of 2021, T-Mobile won first place for 5G availability but took third place in terms of speed and reliability. By the second half of the year, T-Mobile had overtaken AT&T and Verizon in the 5G speed category while maintaining its title of best availability for 5G networks. You can read a summary of the entire RootMetrics study here.

Despite T-Mobile’s impressive nationwide results in its 5G service, It is still important to know if you have 5G access in your area before making any decisions. The best way to do this is to check the T-Mobile coverage map.

You can visit the T-Mobile website and enter your address to find out the specific type of coverage you can expect in your area.

If you use a T-Mobile MVNO like Tello, Mint Mobile, or Boost Mobile, check your plan details to ensure you have access to 5G networks. You can also view online coverage maps of selected service providers to ensure that you will have access to 5G service in your area.

With a T-Mobile or T-Mobile MVNO, you probably will.

5G coverage from Verizon

While T-Mobile won the title for Best 5G Availability and 5G Speed, Verizon outperformed both AT&T and T-Mobile in 5G reliability based on a RootMetrics study.

The study also highlighted that Verizon improved 5G availability in many cities across the country and showed improved speeds in the second half of 2021. The study goes so far as to say that If Verizon continues to improve in both categories, it will likely earn the title of Best 5G Experience from T-Mobile.

The 5G landscape is clearly changing rapidly. If you’re considering upgrading to a 5G device with service on Verizon, it’s important to make sure you can access 5G service in your area. You can do this by checking the Verizon coverage map.

Verizon coverage map

The red dots on the map indicate 5G broadband service. You can view an online interactive coverage map to search for your address or location. After that, you will be able to see what kind of service you will provide in your area.

If you’re using a Verizon-owned service like Visible or a Verizon MVNO like Total Wireless or Twigby, check to see if your specific plan offers 5G access. You can also find a coverage map on each cell phone provider’s location to determine if you have 5G access at home.

5G coverage from AT&T

While AT&T did not win in any of the three categories tested by RootMetrics, the study points to strong 5G reliability and improved 5G availability from AT&T in the second half of 2021.

In the first half of the year, AT&T had the fastest 5G download speeds. In the second half of the year, AT&T moved into second place in terms of reliability and availability. Over the course of 2021, AT&T increased total 5G availability wins across 18 markets and reliability wins with eight markets out of a total of 125 tested. You can read more about the RootMetrics study here.

If AT&T offers 5G coverage in your area, you can expect good reliability. However, 5G download speeds from AT&T likely won’t be as fast as T-Mobile or Verizon. Remember to check the AT&T coverage map to see if you have service in your area.

AT&T coverage map

You can view an online interactive coverage map and enter your location to see what service options are available.

If you’re considering an AT&T MVNO like Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, or H2O Wireless, check the details of your plan to see if it includes 5G access. If so, you can find an online MVNO coverage map to see if you have 5G service in your area.

Upgrade to a 5G phone

In addition to coverage, it’s important to think about your phone itself when you’re considering switching to 5G. fact, You will likely have to upgrade your phone which is where most of the cost will come from5G is now included for free in many mobile plans.

To find out how much you can expect to pay for a 5G compatible phone, I looked at the best used, refurbished, and new prices available on popular unlocked phones. The following prices are accurate as of March 2022.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 and iPhone 13 are two of the latest 5G-enabled devices on the market. It’s obviously a bit more expensive than older 5G-enabled phones like the Google Pixel 5a 5G, iPhone 12, and Samsung Galaxy S20 5G.

Still, Choosing an old used or refurbished phone that is not compatible with 5G will generate the most savings. These phones will still provide access to reliable 4G/LTE service across the country.

If you want a new phone, you can find a new iPhone 11 or Moto G Power at a great price, especially compared to 5G phones. The exception is the Google Pixel 5a 5G, which is actually less expensive than the new iPhone 11. If you want a new 5G compatible phone, the Google Pixel 5a 5G offers the best price.

Is 5G worth it?

Once you begin to understand what 5G is and know how widely coverage is available in your area, the important question becomes whether or not 5G is worth it.

Since one of the biggest advantages of 5G is faster download speeds, I wanted to see exactly how great this feature is. Would the difference in speeds be noticeably better? To find out, I referenced a recent study published by Ookla.

Ookla, founder of SpeedTest.net, has been testing 5G speeds on popular Android and iPhone devices throughout the third quarter of 2021. The results revealed that the most popular 4G devices in the US were about half as fast as the average download speed as the most popular 5G devices. Capable devices.

As far as Apple devices go, iPhone 13 download speeds have proven to be almost three times faster than the non-5G iPhone 11.

The study concluded that the increased speed is definitely one of the advantages of upgrading your 4G phone to a 5G enabled device. You can read the full study here.

Of course, the increased speeds will only be useful if you have access to 5G coverage in your area. If you are using T-Mobile or a comprehensive 5G plan on one of T-Mobile’s MVNOs, you will most likely be able to access 5G service in your area.

Whether you prefer T-Mobile, Verizon, or AT&T, it’s important to enter your exact location on your service provider’s coverage map first to make sure you can access 5G. When considering whether or not 5G is worth it for you, Knowing if you can access the network at home is one of the most critical factors.

No matter which service provider you use, your phone plan will likely already include free 5G access. this means You may not have to pay any additional fees to upgrade or switch your plan. You can check your plan details online to see if 5G is included or not. Of the phone providers I’ve tested myself, Consumer Cellular is the only one I’ve found that didn’t include 5G.

Finally, it is important to consider the cost of a phone with 5G capability. If your current phone is not compatible with 5G, you will have to get a new one.

Based on popular hardware prices as of March 2022, New 5G phones cost an average of $375 more than new phones that are not 5G compatible. Even if you’re shopping for a pre-owned device, 5G phones will still cost an extra $310 on average.

So, is 5G worth it? Unfortunately, the answer, at least for now, is: it depends. If you need faster speeds, live in an area with 5G coverage and use a phone service provider that operates on T-Mobile or Verizon towers, upgrading to a 5G phone may be worth it for you.. Additionally, as 5G continues to expand, coverage and download speeds will only improve.

However, if you are satisfied with 4G/LTE download speeds, live in a rural area or prefer AT&T cell phone service, You can save a lot of money by sticking with your existing phone or upgrading to a phone that isn’t 5G compatible.

As long as your phone supports 4G, there is no need to worry and no need to upgrade. However, If your phone only supports 3G, you’ll need to upgrade sooner rather than later. If this is the case for you, it is important to consider whether the difference in the cost of a 5G phone will make sense for you based on coverage in your area and your preferred service provider.

last thoughts

If you are considering the advantages and disadvantages of upgrading to 5G, you are not alone. The 3G network has already started to shut down, forcing many people to upgrade their phones. So should you go ahead and upgrade to 5G while you’re at it?

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help decide whether or not 5G is worth it:

  • Do you need faster speeds than 4G/LTE? 4G is more readily available across the country than 5G currently, and it’s not going away anytime soon. If 4G download speeds are fast enough for your wireless needs, you may not need to upgrade to 5G.
  • Do you have 5G coverage in your area? You can check the coverage map of any mobile service provider online to see if you have access to 5G in your area. If 5G isn’t in your area yet, there’s no need to upgrade right away.
  • Is your current phone compatible with 5G, or are you willing to spend more money on a new phone? If your current phone is 5G compatible, you probably won’t have to upgrade anything to get to the faster service where it’s available. If your phone is not compatible with 5G, you will have to get a new one. Unfortunately, 5G phones are much more expensive on average than other phones.

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, it would likely be worth upgrading to 5G. However, if 4G speeds are sufficient, or you don’t have 5G service in your area yet or if you’re hoping to save on your next phone upgrade, there’s no need to pay immediately for 5G access.

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