Verizon boosts its 5G network to offer wider coverage and faster speeds

Verizon is making sure it gets off to a good start in 2022 by greatly expanding its wireless 5G coverage. On January 19th, the firm officially upgraded its nationwide 5G service to cover 1,700 cities (about 100 million people), providing faster speeds and improved coverage for “upwards of 90%” of its 5G customers. The improvements come from a rollout of C-band airwaves that it acquired for more than $50 billion last year.

The C-band acquisition was of critical importance for Verizon because it strikes a middle ground between its fastest millimeter-wave (Ultra Wideband) connections, which typically only cover very small sections of an area (as in a few blocks), and the far more widespread low-band 5G connections that only offer speeds similar to 4G LTE. Verizon says the C-band network should offer download speeds up to 1 gigabit per second.

Customers who want to have access to much faster 5G speeds will need to own a smartphone (or tablet) that is compatible, which so far includes a number of new iPhones (12 and 13), Samsung’s Galaxy S21 line and both the Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3, and both the iPad Pro and iPad Mini. Verizon expects to broaden the number of devices, including Google’s Pixel 6 phones, via a software update in the near future.

Given the incredibly heavy investment that Verizon has made into 5G, the company is requiring customers to subscribe to its more expensive unlimited data plans in order to access 5G. A spokesperson told CNET that “going forward every 5G device Verizon sells to postpaid customers will be C-band compatible and we will have more than 20 C-band-compatible devices by the end of the year.”

Both Verizon and AT&T appear to be playing catch-up with T-Mobile when it comes to fast and accessible 5G service, according to Rootmetrics. That said, Verizon’s use of its C-band airwaves couldn’t come at a better time, as its customer base has been ravenously consuming content and engaging in a variety of entertainment activities that require bandwidth. Interpret’s New Media Measure®  shows that mobile gaming, video watching, and video calling have all risen quarter-after-quarter throughout 2021 among Verizon’s US customer base.