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First objective 5G results for the US are here, and they are quite frustrating

A report from RootMetrics gives us an idea of what 5G is like across the US. In brief, 5G is barely there.

Published onOctober 16, 2019

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G 5G logo
  • RootMetrics conducted 5G testing in three US cities.
  • The results show that 5G speeds are incredibly fast, but reliability is basically non-existent.
  • The tests conclude that Verizon’s network delivered the fastest speeds while Sprint’s was the most reliable.

We’ve heard it pretty much ad nauseam over the past few years: 5G is the future. But when is that future actually going to become the present? That’s what venerable speed test and carrier reliability source RootMetrics set out to discover.

In a new report, RootMetrics gives us an idea of our status here in the United States when it comes to the two most important things related to 5G networks: how fast is it and how easy is it to connect? On the first point, RootMetrics has some great news. On the second point though, the news is decidedly bad.

Let’s start with the good news. According to the report, the Big Four wireless carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint) all have fast networks. In the case of Verizon, RootMetrics saw a top 5G speed of 1.1Gbps — or 1,066.3Mbps. That is insanely fast, especially when you consider that the median 4G LTE speed in that same area on Verizon was just 34.5Mbps.

Even Sprint, which had the slowest speeds of the four carriers, still saw top speeds of up to 213.1Mbps. There’s no doubt that 5G will be very zippy.

However, those speeds don’t mean anything if you can’t actually connect to a 5G tower, and that’s where the bad news comes in. Take a look at the charts below:

Right off the bat, you can see from the charts that RootMetrics only tested connections in three major US cities: Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, and Dallas, TX. RootMetrics didn’t limit the study to just those three areas out of choice — those are three cities in which all Big Four carriers have an advertised presence.

Even within those cities, RootMetrics couldn’t connect to a 5G network in all of them. The team couldn’t connect at all to AT&T’s 5G towers in both Atlanta and Chicago, and there were no connections to Verizon towers in Atlanta and Dallas. The only carrier for which the RootMetrics team could connect at least once to a 5G network in each of the three cities was Sprint.

Related: Here are the best 5G phones you can buy

In other words, these results from RootMetrics are exciting because they prove just how fast 5G will be. However, unless you live in a very specific area of a few US cities and happen to be a customer of a carrier with a strong presence there, you’ll likely never see those speeds in action.

What does this mean for you, the general smartphone consumer? It means that you should probably avoid spending the extra money you would spend on a 5G-capable device, at least for now. Unless you have money to burn — or plan on keeping the device for many years — there is likely little benefit to having a 5G-capable smartphone at the moment.

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