Why hardly anyone gets the fastest form of 5G

US mobile customers are almost never able to connect to millimeter wave networks, although the cellular industry, and Verizon in particular, have spent years finding the fastest form of 5G.

AT&T and T-Mobile customers with devices capable of using millimeter wave networks were only connected to mmWave 5G 0.5% of the time during the 90-day period between 16 January and April 15, 2021, according to a OpenSignal report published on Wednesday. Even on Verizon, the operator with the most aggressive rollout of mmWave 5G, users of compatible devices spent 0.8% of their time on the high-frequency network which uses its large capacity to deliver speeds faster than the spectrum of low and middle bands. Average download speeds on mmWave 5G were 232.7 Mbps for AT&T, 215.3 Mbps for T-Mobile, and 692.9 Mbps for Verizon.

“Average connection time to mmWave 5G” represents the percentage of time connected to mmWave among users who have an mmWave 5G compatible device and have connected at least once to mmWave, OpenSignal told Ars. This means the numbers aren’t reduced by devices that are just not recent enough to use mmWave 5G – the percentages for the top three carriers are less than 1% when evaluating users who definitely have compatible devices. with mmWave networks.

“In OpenSignal’s analyzes, we consistently see our Verizon mmWave 5G users experience a higher average connection time to mmWave 5G than users of other US carriers,” the report said. “During that 90-day period, our Verizon users saw an average connection time to mmWave 5G of 0.8% versus 0.5% on AT&T and T-Mobile. However, although Verizon appears to be ahead of the curve. , this result actually represents a statistical equality due to overlapping confidence intervals with AT&T. “The top three operators have” a lot of potential to increase the availability of mmWave 5G services, “the report notes.

Another report released by OpenSignal on Wednesday stated that – counting 5G on all spectrum bands, not just mmWave – 5G was available 33.1% of the time on T-Mobile, 20.5% of the time on AT&T and 11.2% of the time on Verizon.

OpenSignal’s speed test applications “collect billions of individual measurements every day from more than 100 million devices worldwide,” producing “the vast majority of our data through automated tests that run in background “, the test company said.

Verizon’s advance in mmWave 5G is not surprising, as “Verizon’s 5G deployment strategy has placed a strong emphasis on mmWave, while T-Mobile has focused on its 600 MHz spectrum assets and 2.5 GHz for 5G services, and AT&T has mainly used the low band for 5G so far, ”OpenSignal said.

mmWave 5G was never likely to become the primary form of mobile connectivity, as high frequency radio waves do not travel far and are easily blocked by walls and other obstacles. The pandemic has also limited the possibilities for people to connect to mmWave 5G, as the technology makes the most sense in heavily populated outdoor areas and during large events.

“With the pandemic, large groups of people weren’t congregating as much in city centers, sports stadiums or shopping malls – so we haven’t yet seen the full benefits of mmWave 5G services,” Ars told Ars. Ian Fogg, Openignal vice president of analytics. answer to our questions. “In addition, we will likely see seasonal differences in the time users spend connected to mmWave, given that mmWave sites are primarily located outdoors.”

Fogg noted that “the physics of high frequency mmWave spectrum bands mean that signals that come from the outside tend to stay outside” and that people obviously spend more time outdoors in the summer than they do. ‘in winter. However, “when we see more mmWave roll out inside large buildings such as shopping malls or metro systems, seasonality will decrease,” he said.

These caveats mean it is too early to deregister mmWave 5G as a major player in mobile internet use. But so far, mmWave 5G is barely making a splash in US mobile connectivity, and it’s unclear if this will ever become a big factor for smartphone users. The technology might end up helping many home internet users achieve faster speeds through point-to-point connections, but most people would prefer a wired connection. Additionally, the emergence of SpaceX Starlink’s low-earth orbit satellite service may reduce interest in mmWave 5G for home internet, and the availability of Verizon’s mmWave 5G Home service is very limited. T-Mobile recently launched 5G home internet service, but it don’t use mmWave.

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