Testing Verizon's 5G network in New York City: here are the top speeds we found

Testing Verizon's 5G network in New York City: here are the top speeds we found
It feels like we’ve been awaiting the imminent advent of the 5G revolution for years, but now, in 2020, it’s safe to say that it’s finally passed the exposition and really blossomed into something the average user can take into consideration. The announcement of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 chipset nigh-universalized 5G support across the Android flagship sector, and every major US carrier now has respectable coverage in major cities across the country. 

So, armed with a new Moto Edge+, a handy online coverage map, and the knowledge that 5G doesn’t cause COVID-19, we were ready to go test Verizon’s 5G network in the heart of New York City.

For a quick recap on Verizon’s 5G network, the carrier supports mmWave connections, one of the two forms of 5G currently available. Compared to sub-6Ghz, the other major part of the spectrum, mmWave theoretically supports significantly faster speeds—but it doesn’t do as well with managing interference from walls and structures, making the connection a bit more fragile.

Site A: 3rd Avenue, Turtle Bay


Verizon’s 5G UWB network exists in spots and patches across Manhattan, with hotspots clustered markedly around the (normally) bustling Midtown area. Turtle Bay is one of the quieter neighborhoods where 5G reception is available, and it didn’t disappoint with our tests, averaging download speeds of 895 Mbps, not too far off from the maximum 1 Gbps the carrier advertises.

Of course, 5G reception is characteristically finicky. It can take a bit of searching to find a spot with an ideal connection, and even then the speed isn’t perfectly consistent, but real-life download speeds showed significant improvements over normal LTE connections. Saving a 500MB video on Netflix took just 42 seconds, while downloading Asphalt 9 and all of its required additional data took just under three minutes. To compare, my relatively speedy home Wi-Fi took upwards of ten minutes for that same installation, while LTE speeds would require up to an hour. 

Site A, Speed Testing with Speedtest by Ookla:


Download
Speed
(Mbps)
Ping
(ms)
Jitter
(ms)
Test #1652209
Test #2866322
Test #31212104
Test #48492852
Average89522.516.8

Site A, Netflix & Play Store Download Speeds:


File SizeDownload
Time
500MB Video42 seconds
700MB Video92 seconds
1.8GB Application178 seconds
Average Speed9.6 MB/second

Site B: 45th Street, Times Square 


The next-gen network connection is considerably easier to find in Times Square, so our next round of tests took place outside of café on 45th St. Here, the network appears to be much more solid, with less fluctuation and better consistency of speed. This site is also where we found our peak download speed of an incredible 1.36Gbps, which really shows off the potential of the 5G network in the very near future.


Download speeds in real life were proportionately faster here, though none of our real-life tests even got close to the speeds 5G could deliver on paper with the current network infrastructure. One episode of a Netflix original series weighing in at 700MB took a little over a minute to download, while the install for Asphalt 9 took twice that time.

Site B, Speed Testing with Speedtest by Ookla:


Download
Speed
(Mbps)
Ping
(ms)
Jitter
(ms)
Test #18711745
Test #2909113
Test #313531077
Test #4136483
Average112411.532

Site B, Netflix & Play Store Download Speeds:


File SizeDownload
Time
500MB Video37 seconds
700MB Video74 seconds
1.8GB Application136 seconds
Average Speed12.1 MB/second

As it stands, there are only a few spots in the entirety of New York City where you can take advantage of Verizon’s ultra wideband network without standing in one spot, so actually downloading things at blazing-fast speed while going about your everyday life is likely not going to happen for still some time. But the 5G connection isn’t unstable in the areas where it’s advertised to exist. 

How much does 5G impact battery life?


How is the strain on battery, you ask? Though there are many variables surrounding battery usage, our testing found that an hour of 5G downloads drains the battery almost twice as much as an hour of LTE downloads. However, 5G takes far less battery per gigabyte of download, because it happens so quickly. So assuming you're consuming the same amount of data, 5G puts less strain on your battery life. On the other hand, LTE's battery footprint is far lighter for use cases like streaming, where faster download speeds don't save you time. 

For uploads, many 5G networks originally relied on LTE, but most have switched to standalone 5G since. With Verizon's 5G, we saw an average Mbps in the twenties, with a peak of 43 Mbps. These are considerably less spectacular than the download speeds but still significantly better than current LTE averages, which fall around a maximum of 10~15 Mbps in the same areas. 

All in all, the Moto Edge+ performs admirably as far as 5G connectivity is concerned, and Verizon’s coverage maps and speed boasting seems fairly accurate as well. The new network still has major hurdles to overcome before it reaches ubiquity, but it’s already come remarkably far, and the magical download speeds available today only make us more excited for future prospects.
 

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