(Photo of Artem Podrez about Pexels)
5G wireless technology continues its introduction in the Columbus marketbut is it good business for college students?
If you haven’t heard of 5G in 2020, you probably heard about it by the beginning of 2021. The fifth generation of wireless cell phone technology will connect the next generation of smartphones to the internet, connect autonomous cars to each other and much more.
5G-enabled smartphones are also coming onto the market. Apple’s latest iPhones all support 5G, and other smartphone manufacturers like Samsung started releasing their 5G-enabled phones about a year ago, in early 2020.
When can consumers get 5G services and is it worth the price? First, I’ll break down the current state of 5G cellular service and then provide a glimpse into plans and prices with the current top networks in central Ohio. First, let’s talk about coverage and speed:
Coverage and speeds
5G installation card from Columbus from Ookla 5G card. (Screenshot by Zach Ferenchak)
5G is unique in that there are a few different versions of it. The most common is the low-band version of 5G. With this version of 5G, most of these major cellular operators can claim “nationwide coverage” as updates to existing cell towers are required. This version of 5G allows for higher speeds and bandwidths than 4G LTE (which most phones use today), but in most cases no one will notice much of a difference, except for a new “5G” badge next to the cover bar on their phones. Verizon, AT & T., and the new T-Mobile (T-Mobile + Sprint) cover Bexley and the campus as well as most of Columbus pretty well. AT&T appears to have the best coverage as both Verizon and T-Mobile have gaps in certain areas of the city.
Things get more interesting in the high-band version of 5G. This version of 5G is a real generation leap from 4G LTE and the technology that allows you to download a Netflix movie in seconds or drive a fully autonomous car. There’s a big tradeoff here, however: this version of 5G requires (for the most part) all of the new cell towers. The signal strength of these cell waves is much less strong than that of 5G Low Band / 4G LTE waves. Hence, many more cell towers will have to be erected to fully cover a city as large as Columbus.
The only vendor to see a difference in their coverage map between their low and high band 5G offerings is Verizon. The company’s rollout of the ultra-fast high-band 5G variant begins in popular areas around Columbus such as Downtown, Polaris, the short north, John Glenn International Airport, Easton, and parts of Ohio State University. There is currently no high-band 5G in Bexley, at least for Verizon.
For more information on 5G coverage and the rollout, see Ooklas 5G coverage map and This website for comparison of coverage maps.
The prices for 5G depend on the network operator. Most network operators offer low-band 5G at no additional cost. High-band 5G is included in more top tier plans, but again, this all depends on the carrier. Let’s break it down below:
According to the company’s websiteVerizon’s 5G Nationwide low-band network is included for free on all plans (however, you need a compatible phone to use this). The high-band 5G ultra-broadband version of 5G is included in the company’s unlimited postpaid plans, which start at $ 70 / month for a line.
AT & T.
All of AT&T unlimited plans. offer both low- and high-band 5G at no additional cost. That includes “5G +,” the high-band 5G variant from AT&T. Unlimited plans start at $ 65 / month per line for one line.
The new T-Mobile combines Sprint and T-Mobile’s network to create a worthy competitor for AT&T and Verizon. In terms of pricing, Here, too, T-Mobile is competitive. 5G is included in all unlimited plans at no additional cost. Plans start at $ 60 / month for one line.
Conclusion: is 5G worth it?
5G is officially here in Columbus. I wouldn’t recommend switching in the near future, as most of us still spend time indoors (with fast WiFi). 5G will become much more useful once this pandemic ends and things like music festivals, trade shows, and vacation travel are back to normal.
If you already have an unlimited plan, you can enjoy 5G if you’ve recently bought a brand new device. For the rest of us, I’d wait for 5G phones to get cheaper and the high-band network to expand.