Verizon has long held the title for best overall network performance and coverage in the US. With their early rollout of 5G and massive spectrum holdings, many expect Verizon to continue leading the way with next-gen 5G connectivity.
But AT&T and T-Mobile have been making big moves as well. Both carriers are quickly building out their 5G networks using a range of frequency bands.
So how does Verizon’s 5G coverage stack up against the competition today? This in-depth review will compare Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile’s current 5G networks to see who comes out on top for 5G availability across the country.
Verizon 5G Overview
Verizon launched 5G service in April 2019, the first carrier to offer next-generation connectivity in the US. Using high-band millimeter wave spectrum, Verizon 5G provides ultra-fast speeds of up to 4 Gbps in ideal conditions.
To date, Verizon 5G coverage includes parts of over 1,700 cities across the US. However, as mmWave has very limited range, their coverage is restricted to small pockets within each city. Verizon expects to have 5G available in over 30 cities by the end of 2020.
Verizon 5G Bands
- mmWave – 28 GHz, 39 GHz
- Sub-6 – n71, n66, n5, n2, n1
Verizon primarily relies on mmWave for their 5G deployment. While mmWave 5G can achieve incredible multi-gigabit speeds, the tradeoff is minimal range and poor obstacle penetration.
To supplement their mmWave 5G coverage, Verizon has also launched sub-6 GHz 5G using their 850 MHz and PCS spectrum bands. Sub-6 offers much better coverage and penetration compared to mmWave, but peak speeds top out around 400 Mbps.
Verizon 5G Phones
Given the limited coverage footprint, only a handful of phones can currently access Verizon’s 5G:
- Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G
- LG V60 ThinQ 5G
- Moto Edge+
These phones all contain the proper mmWave antennas required to connect to Verizon’s high-band 5G. Affordable sub-6 only devices like the Samsung A71 5G are incompatible at this time.
Verizon 5G Plans
All Verizon unlimited plans include 5G access for no extra charge. However, the cheaper Start and Play More plans cap 5G speeds at 4G LTE levels. To get uncapped 5G data speeds, you need to upgrade to the Do More or Get More unlimited plan.
AT&T 5G Coverage
AT&T also launched mobile 5G in 2019 using mmWave spectrum in select areas. But more importantly, AT&T has been aggressively deploying sub-6 GHz 5G across the country using their low and mid-band spectrum holdings.
AT&T now provides widespread 5G coverage, available in 395 markets across the US as of October 2020. Speeds average around 100-300 Mbps on sub-6 networks, lower than mmWave but with much farther reach.
AT&T 5G Bands
- mmWave – 39 GHz
- Sub-6 – n5, n2, n1, n66, n260, n261
Instead of chasing super high speeds, AT&T has focused on rapidly rolling out sub-6 5G for broader coverage. As more devices support their spectrum bands, AT&T’s 5G availability will continue improving.
AT&T 5G Phones
With strong sub-6 support, AT&T has a wide range of 5G smartphones:
- Samsung Galaxy S20 5G lineup
- LG Velvet 5G
- Moto Edge
- Apple iPhone 12 models
- Samsung A71 5G
- Samsung Note 20 5G
Pretty much any recent flagship or mid-range 5G phone will work on AT&T’s 5G networks thanks to ubiquitous sub-6 support.
AT&T 5G Plans
Like Verizon, AT&T includes 5G access with all latest unlimited plans. 5G data speeds are uncapped across the board.
T-Mobile 5G Coverage
T-Mobile launched their 5G network in December 2019 with a nationwide sub-6 footprint using 600 MHz spectrum. While only marginally faster than 4G LTE, it provides foundational 5G coverage.
With the Sprint merger complete, T-Mobile has aggressively integrated Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum for much faster mid-band 5G. Their ultra capacity 5G now covers 250 million people in over 7,500 cities.
T-Mobile expects to cover 200 million people with faster mid-band 5G by end of 2020. Their 600 MHz 5G already reaches 300 million people in over 8,300 cities and towns.
T-Mobile 5G Bands
- 600 MHz (nationwide)
- 2.5 GHz (ultra capacity)
- mmWave (limited areas)
- Sub-6: n71, n41, n66, n260, n261
T-Mobile takes a tiered approach to 5G:
- 600 MHz for widespread nationwide 5G
- 2.5 GHz for faster speeds in populated areas
- mmWave eventually for dense urban zones
This allows T-Mobile to balance coverage and speeds in an efficient, cost-effective rollout.
T-Mobile 5G Phones
With broad sub-6 support, most 5G devices work on T-Mobile’s network including:
- Samsung Galaxy S20 5G lineup
- OnePlus 8 5G series
- LG Velvet 5G
- Moto Edge
- Apple iPhone 12 lineup
- Samsung A71 5G, Note 20 Ultra 5G
Any unlocked sub-6 5G phone should be compatible with T-Mobile’s 5G bands. mmWave support is not necessary given their current network structure.
T-Mobile 5G Plans
Like other carriers, T-Mobile 5G is included in all unlimited plans at no extra charge. Magenta Unlimited plans get 100GB of high-speed data before potential throttling. Magenta Max plans come with unlimited premium data.
Verizon vs AT&T vs T-Mobile 5G Coverage Comparison
Now let’s compare Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile’s 5G availability and speeds head-to-head. We’ll look at nationwide coverage maps along with user speed test results.
5G Coverage Maps
While coverage maps provide a general overview, real-world experiences may vary. Keep in mind T-Mobile and AT&T use color coding to distinguish between low, mid and high band 5G.
Verizon 5G Coverage Map
Verizon 5G is currently limited to small pockets of mmWave coverage in each city. Not all areas are live yet – check their coverage map for your specific location.
AT&T 5G Coverage Map
AT&T 5G is widely available via sub-6 spectrum across much of the country. You can see how AT&T distinguishes low and high band coverage.
T-Mobile 5G Coverage Map
With 600 MHz and Sprint’s 2.5 GHz, T-Mobile offers broad 5G coverage nationwide. Their mid-band 5G surpasses AT&T for speed and reach.
Based on published coverage maps, T-Mobile currently provides the most extensive 5G availability thanks to their tiered network approach. AT&T comes in second place with widespread sub-6 5G. Verizon’s mmWave 5G trails for overall coverage footprint.
5G Speed Test Results
In real-world testing based on user speed tests, here are typical speeds you can expect to see on each carrier:
| Carrier | Median Download Speed | Peak Download Speed |
| Verizon 5G | 1.8 Gbps | 4.2 Gbps |
| AT&T 5G | 183 Mbps | 1.8 Gbps |
| T-Mobile 5G | 203 Mbps | 1.5 Gbps |
Verizon clearly dominates peak speeds thanks to mmWave, achieving up to 4 Gbps based on field tests. No other technology can match mmWave performance under ideal conditions.
However, Verizon’s median speed is much lower at 1.8 Gbps due to limited coverage. You need line of sight to a cell site to hit those blazing fast mmWave speeds.
AT&T and T-Mobile deliver more consistent speeds in the 200 Mbps range on their sub-6 networks. These speeds are lower than mmWave but available over much wider areas.
So Verizon offers the fastest 5G speeds, but only in small outdoor areas with mmWave coverage. AT&T and T-Mobile trade off a bit of peak performance for 5G connectivity in more places.
Factors Impacting 5G Performance
Many variables affect your 5G speeds and coverage in practice. Here are key factors to keep in mind when comparing performance.
1. 5G Spectrum Used
- mmWave – Fastest speeds, worst coverage
- Sub-6 – Slower speeds, better coverage
- Low-band – Decent coverage, slower speeds
- Mid-band – Balances speed and coverage
Carriers use a mix of frequency bands depending on needs for speed vs range. mmWave is up to 100x faster than 4G LTE but hard to find.
2. Obstructions Matter
- mmWave is easily blocked by walls, trees, buildings, windows
- Sub-6 and low-band penetrate obstacles much better
- Mid-band also suffers less obstruction issues than mmWave
mmWave performance plummets indoors or away from cell sites. Lower bands still work inside buildings.
3. Phone Hardware
- mmWave antennas are large and expensive, only in premium 5G phones
- Nearly all 5G phones support sub-6 frequencies
- The latest Qualcomm X55 and X60 modems improve 5G speeds
Phone hardware influences what 5G networks you can access. mmWave support is still limited to high-end devices.
4. Location Relative to Cell Site
- Being close to a 5G cell site is key for best performance
- Speeds quickly drop off with distance as obstructions increase
- Outdoor areas typically see much faster speeds
Proximity to a 5G tower or small cell is critical, especially for mmWave. Large venues also install indoor mmWave pico cells.
5. Network Congestion
- 5G speeds suffer during peak usage times as capacity is shared
- Less congestion on mmWave since fewer users
- Carriers continue building cell density to handle demand
Like any network, the more users connected to a 5G site, the slower speeds become at the cell edge.
6. Carrier Deployment Strategy
- Verizon focusing on highest speeds via mmWave
- AT&T rapidly deploying sub-6 for wider coverage
- T-Mobile balancing coverage and speed with low + mid-band
Each carrier takes a different approach based on their spectrum assets and target users. This affects 5G performance and availability.
So keep these factors in mind when evaluating 5G speeds in your area. Performance varies drastically depending on location, obstructions, network technology, congestion levels and other elements.
Verizon vs AT&T vs T-Mobile 5G: Which is Best?
When comparing Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile’s 5G deployments, there is no definitive winner. Each carrier has pros and cons.
Verizon 5G offers the fastest peak download speeds thanks to mmWave, but coverage is very sparse right now. Verizon 5G is ideal if you want raw speed above all else and live near a mmWave cell site outdoors.
AT&T 5G provides the best balance of coverage and performance for most users today. With widespread low-band connectivity and rapidly growing mid-band speeds, AT&T 5G is accessible in more everyday places.
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T-Mobile 5G currently provides the broadest 5G availability across the country. Their 600 MHz network lays the foundation for nationwide 5G. Sprint’s mid-band spectrum significantly boosts speeds in many regions as it gets integrated.
Here is a high-level comparison of Verizon vs AT&T vs T-Mobile’s 5G deployments:
| Carrier | Best For… | Pros | Cons |
| Verizon | Peak speeds | – Fastest 5G via mmWave
– 1.8 Gbps median speed | – Very limited coverage
– Mostly outdoors only |
| AT&T | Balanced coverage + speed | – Widespread low-band
– Growing mid-band coverage
– 183 Mbps median speed | – mmWave still minimal |
| T-Mobile | 5G availability | – 300M+ covered with 600 MHz
– 250M covered with 2.5 GHz
– 203 Mbps median speed | – Rural areas often limited to 600 MHz |
Ultimately it depends on your specific needs and location. I recommend checking carrier coverage maps and asking neighbors to get a sense of real-world 5G performance in your area.
The good news is that all three networks will continue rapidly expanding and improving 5G coverage and speeds over the coming months.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which carrier currently has the best 5G coverage?
Based on current 5G coverage maps, T-Mobile has the most extensive 5G availability thanks to their 600 MHz and 2.5 GHz networks. AT&T also provides broad low-band coverage while Verizon 5G footprint remains very limited.
Is Verizon 5G available nationwide?
No, Verizon 5G is only live in certain outdoor areas of over 1,700 cities so far. Their ultra wideband network uses mmWave which only travels short distances. Verizon’s nationwide sub-6 5G coverage is still sparse.
How fast is AT&T 5G?
AT&T 5G speeds average around 100-300 Mbps on their low and mid-band networks according to user speed tests. In ideal conditions, AT&T 5G can reach peak speeds up to 1.8 Gbps where mmWave is deployed.
Does T-Mobile have the fastest 5G network?
While not as fast as Verizon mmWave, T-Mobile often delivers some of the fastest real-world 5G speeds thanks to their 2.5 GHz deployment. Their median 5G download is 203 Mbps, ahead of AT&T.
What frequency gives the best 5G coverage?
Low-band frequencies like 600-850 MHz travel longer distances and better penetrate obstacles. However, speeds are slower than high-band mmWave which only covers tiny areas. Mid-band strikes the best balance currently.
Can I access 5G on any unlimited plan?
Yes, all of the major carriers include 5G access with their latest unlimited plans for no added cost. However, some carriers limit 5G speeds unless you pay for premium unlimited. Check carrier sites for specifics.
The Bottom Line
- Verizon 5G offers the fastest peak speeds but worst overall coverage. Ideal if you prioritize speed over availability.
- AT&T 5G delivers the best balance between decent speeds and growing coverage. Great if you want accessible 5G across town.
- T-Mobile 5G provides the widest 5G availability right now but speeds vary. Best for nationwide 5G reach on a budget.
No carrier clearly dominates on all fronts – each one comes with advantages and drawbacks. I suggest trying out different networks to see what 5G service works for your specific needs. Also continue checking carrier coverage maps as 5G deployments rapidly evolve across the US.