Disabling 5G on your new Verizon iPhone can actually make it faster
If you're a Verizon customer, you might have noticed that the 5G data speeds that you are receiving over the carrier's Nationwide 5G network are often slower than 4G LTE. That is because of the technology that the nation's largest carrier is using to cover the country with coast-to-coast 5G signals. It is called Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) and Verizon explains it thusly: "Verizon’s 5G Nationwide employs Dynamic Spectrum Sharing technology, which allows 5G service to run simultaneously with 4G LTE on multiple spectrum bands. This new technology gives Verizon the ability to dynamically use its full portfolio of current spectrum resources to serve both 4G and 5G customers."
If your Verizon 5G phone is slower than 4G LTE, toggle off 5G to speed up the device
Verizon customers receive two different kinds of 5G signals. The Ultra Wideband 5G employs high band mmWave spectrum which does not travel long distances. It also doesn't penetrate structures that well. That is why it is hard to find an area of the country where Verizon's UWB can be found. The good news is that mmWave 5G delivers very fast speeds. DSS, on the other hand, allows Verizon to share 5G and 4G LTE spectrum without having to re-farm existing low-band airwaves. Besides Verizon's DSS, both T-Mobile and AT&T rely on low-band's far-reaching signals to blanket the U.S. with 5G coverage. And low-band can also penetrate buildings with ease. But what they don't do is provide users with spectacularly fast data speed.
A test run in NYC shows that a Verizon iPhone 12 Pro was slower than 4G LTE on the carrier's DSS 5G network
Bridging low and high-band 5G is mid-band spectrum. T-Mobile, which calls its tri-banded 5G system a triple layer cake, was able to obtain a large amount of mid-band spectrum when it bought Sprint; with mid-band signals not easily obtainable by carriers, the purchase of Sprint has many analysts expecting T-Mobile to eventually offer the fastest 5G service in the states. As for Verizon, when it introduced its Nationwide 5G in October, the slower DSS brought the carrier's median 5G download speed from first among the three major carriers to last.
And this is why PCMag reports that Verizon users with the new 5G iPhone 12 line, the Google Pixel 5 and other phones supporting both Nationwide 5G and Ultra Wideband service may suffer from slow speeds. How slow? Slower than 4G LTE. If that is the case with your service, the best bet is to disable 5G on your Verizon phone. The handset will automatically select a 5G network over 4G LTE. So if you don't disable the setting, your phone will simply connect to a slower network automatically with a major exception. If your Verizon 5G device supports UWB and you are in an area with UWB coverage, then you might be better off keeping 5G toggled on. However, keep in mind that finding an Ultra WideBand 5G signal is like finding a needle in a haystack right now with availability in just over 60 cities.
How to tell which Verizon 5G network your iPhone is on
Even Verizon itself admits this issue. A spokesman said, "For most customers, performance on our 5G nationwide network will be similar to 4G. [DSS] is new technology and we're continuing to modify it as we go. We expect performance improvement through 2021 and beyond." PCMag conducted a real life test in New York City (let's hope they wore a mask!). An iPhone 12 Pro was taken to eight locations in the Big Apple. The first seven locations featured a DSS signal and the result was lower data speeds than 4G LTE service. For the last test, a UWB connection was established with download data speeds more than seven times faster than DSS 5G, running at over 700Mbps.
Most of Verizon's 5G phones won't let you disable 5G support although you can try. Go to Settings > Connections > Mobile Network > Network Mode. If you see an option to select LTE/CDMA instead of 5G/LTE/CDMA, you can disable 5G on your device. As for the iPhone, go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Voice & Data and tap on LTE to disable 5G.
So how do you know which 5G network your iPhone is on? If you are a Verizon customer, look at the status bar on the upper right of your iPhone screen. If you see the small letters UW on the 5G icon, congratulations! You're connected to Verizon's speedy UltraWideband 5G network.
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