5G has been the battle cry of network operators and phone manufacturers for more than two years now but the next-gen network still doesn’t have the ideal coverage and speeds that proponents would have liked. In some cases, carriers have even had to make do with “Dynamic Spectrum Sharing” or DSS 5G, a.k.a. Verizon’s “nationwide 5G”, which is a far cry from the 5G that many people have in mind. And then there’s still the ongoing improvement on 4G networks that, somewhat ironically, is making Verizon’s new 4G look better than its existing 5G performance.
Verizon has recently been activating a new 4G enhancement that utilizes CBRS (short for Citizens Broadband Radio Service but confusingly not to be confused with truckers’ CB radios) on the 3.5GHz Band. This is pretty much a transition step to 5G, aside from its “nationwide” DSS 5G in preparation for an upcoming major upgrade to 5G across the country. Ironically, in cities where CBRS 4G is available, it actually outperforms both types of 5G but in different ways.
According to PCMag’s testing in Queens, Verizon’s new 4G reported 815 Mbps speeds on a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. In contrast, DSS 5G topped at only 358 Mbps while Verizon’s mmWave 5G did result in an astounding 3.4 Gbps. As always, however, the devil is in the details.
mmWave 5G might indeed be faster but it can only reach shorter ranges compared to 4G. The subpar performance of DSS 5G, however, is ironically due to how cell sites don’t allow combining CBRS 4G with DSS 5G, the latter of which actually rides on part of the spectrum used by 4G.
All hope is not lost for 5G, however, and the upcoming C-Band upgrade expected next year could give Verizon the boost it needs. But for now, due to limitations in its networking hardware, Verizon’s new 4G will be embarrassing its 5G performance, at least in cities where all three new technologies are available.