Verizon’s 5G cellular network is only two days old, but given all the hype over the next-generation wireless standard, it’s no surprise that independent testers are already trying to determine whether it lives up to the carrier’s promises. Evidently, it does: Initial findings of Signals Research Group’s testing (via RCR) suggest that the new 5G network is performing within Verizon’s advertised 300Mbps to 1Gbps speed range and achieving the sort of impressively robust wireless performance carriers began to flag earlier this year.
Signals Research Group conducted its tests in Houston, Texas using early 5G modems provided by Verizon, though the carrier apparently remained hands-off during the testing. Early results suggest connections in the 600-800Mbps download and 250Mbps upload ranges, albeit on an unloaded network, using aggregation of six 100-megahertz-wide channels of 28GHz millimeter wave spectrum.
While the latter numbers might confuse some readers, they’re important because they show that Verizon’s deployments are indeed using small cells with the latest ultra-high frequency millimeter wave spectrum hardware. Moreover, Verizon upped its bandwidth from four wireless channels during testing to six for the actual deployment, which should enable it to deliver more data over time.
SRG notes that Verizon’s small cells are set atop utility poles roughly 20 to 40 feet high yet are exceeding wireless performance expectations in testing thus far. Roughly the size of laptops, the cells are “small enough that you wouldn’t know it was there unless you saw them install it” and are delivering good signals even when partially obstructed, at distances of six blocks away. “We can be sitting literally behind a building and have a whole block of trees and no visibility to the cell site,” said SRG’s Mike Thelander, “and we’re still seeing hundreds and hundreds of megabytes in the downlink and just slightly lower in the uplink.”
At the moment, SRG suggests, customers are more likely to be speed-constrained by their apps or wired Ethernet connections than by Verizon’s 5G wireless signal. One test with Google Drive showed the 800Mbps network speed dropping to 200-300Mbps during app access; similarly, the physical Ethernet interface with an existing router could limit speeds.
Verizon’s “5G TF” network uses a pre-standards version of 5G that employs some of the 5G standard’s technologies to offer high-speed broadband service to home and business customers. The carrier has pledged to upgrade its network to standards-compliant 5G as soon as the hardware is ready. Service is available now in four U.S. cities, starting at $50 per month with a three-month free trial.