Verizon details its long-term 5G ambitions, and T-Mobile is not impressed

Verizon details its long-term 5G ambitions, and T-Mobile is not impressed
While it's definitely hard to take Verizon seriously when the nation's largest wireless service provider (by subscribers) is trying to paint its 5G Ultra Wideband network deployment and expansion efforts so far as "aggressive", you shouldn't be surprised to hear the carrier does have a pretty solid rollout strategy slowly taking shape for the next few years.

It's obviously difficult (not to mention premature) to say whether or not Big Red will ever catch up to T-Mobile in terms of 5G infrastructure, but following a dominant recent showing in the greatest spectrum auction in the FCC's history, the market-leading operator is ready to do everything in its power to achieve just that... eventually.

A multi-billion dollar marathon, not a sprint

In order to make up all the lost ground resulting from the $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint last year, Verizon is digging deep into its corporate pockets, splashing more than $45 billion on badly needed C-band spectrum and expecting to spend an additional $10 billion or so on actually putting said spectrum to use and enabling up to 1Gbit/s top speeds for 250 million people by 2024.

If that sounds like an ambitious objective, then you're probably not familiar with T-Mobile's Ultra Capacity, aka mid-band, 5G signal, which already covers 106 million Americans (at least in theory) across 2,400 cities and towns. Granted, Magenta's mid-band 5G download speeds are slightly humbler than what Big Red promises to deliver down the line, averaging anywhere between 170 and 260 Mbps in five large markets rigorously tested just last month.

Of course, the "Un-carrier" has its own plans to continue improving speeds in addition to network availability through 2024 and beyond, but unlike Verizon, the nation's number two cellular company can do all of its upgrading and expansion work now. That's because Big Red still needs to wait until 2023 for some of its newly acquired C-band spectrum licenses to become available, which explains why the aforementioned 250 million coverage goal is only set for the following year.

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If it makes you feel any better, the currently microscopic Ultra Wideband network is projected to cover "around 100 million Americans" by this time next year. Before you get too excited, we should point out that the marketing label referring strictly to Verizon's blazing fast mmWave technology at the moment will soon expand to include slightly slower but more widely accessible C-band signals as well.

By the end of 2023, C-band 5G availability alone is expected to jump to 175 million people, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at but it's also unlikely to challenge T-Mo's fast-growing numbers.

No plans for a high-speed 5G surcharge... for "premium" customers

You may not remember this now (because it was a laughably dumb idea), but Verizon originally intended to charge its subscribers extra for 5G access. While the carrier temporarily and then permanently dropped the explicit 5G tax, its "unlimited" plans are still not created equal as far as (theoretical) top speeds are concerned.

Namely, you need a Play More, Do More, or Get More Unlimited option at the time of this writing to enjoy both 5G Ultra Wideband and "5G Nationwide" benefits, with Start Unlimited and Just Kids users, for instance, restricted to the latter service, which is currently not much faster than a traditional 4G LTE connection, relying on a somewhat controversial technology dubbed Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS).

While the names, monthly fees, and the number of these "premium unlimited" data plans could always change, Verizon has confirmed its thriftier customers will have to settle for 4G LTE and 4G LTE-like 5G speeds even after C-band service becomes a thing. 

That's yet another crucial difference between Big Red and T-Mo's 5G visions, as the latter operator offers unrestricted access to both its low and mid-band signals for users on a wider variety of plans, including Essentials Unlimited 55+ and Magenta Military.

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