The 5G market continues to change rapidly in the U.S. as carriers increase the reach of their 5G services or deploy new types of 5G spectrum to improve capacity. Here we analyze the proportion of time that our users were connected to 5G — 5G Availability — and the overall experience of 5G users before Verizon’s nationwide 5G launch on October 13 and before the full impact of T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G spectrum roll out on the 2.5GHz band. In a previous insight we looked at U.S. 5G Download Speed in the downtown areas of five major cities and examined the average 5G speeds in those locations, which tend to be where carriers are deploying mmWave 5G.
Across five cities, Opensignal’s T-Mobile users enjoyed the greatest time connected to 5G of any carrier. In Los Angeles and New York, T-Mobile users enjoy the highest 5G Availability of over 30%. Our AT&T users connect to 5G almost as much, with our users in three of the five cities connecting to 5G more than one quarter of the time, but in no city does AT&T’s 5G Availability top T-Mobile’s.
In our last national report on the U.S. 5G experience our Verizon users saw the lowest 5G Availability of 0.4%. But in this new analysis looking at key U.S. cities, we see 5G Availability ranging from 0.9% in Houston down to 0.3% of time in Washington.
We’ve also looked at how 5G Availability affects the overall experience of 5G users. We call this measure Download Speed Experience – 5G Users. We measure the 5G and 4G average download speeds of those users with both a 5G smartphone and a 5G tariff and create a score that compares their overall experience.
Looking at the Download Speed Experience – 5G Users results, we see overall scores that are much closer between the carriers than when we looked at 5G Download Speed alone. Most likely, this is because of the effect of 5G Availability — the time spent connected to 5G — on the overall score.
We will examine further changes in future published insights to reflect the evolution of the U.S. 5G market and map out how users’ 5G mobile experience varies across the nation. Many of these current changes should significantly improve the U.S. 5G experience. There are three notable 5G developments:
Verizon nationwide 5G. After October 13, Verizon started its nationwide 5G rollout using dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) to allow Verizon to offer 5G on lower frequency spectrum bands that are also available for use simultaneously for Verizon’s 4G users. The use of lower frequency bands will change the nature of Verizon’s 5G service compared with the exclusively mmWave service used beforehand, likely increasing 5G Availability but lowering average 5G Download Speeds.
T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G extension. Similar to Verizon, T-Mobile is also altering the mix of 5G spectrum it uses for its 5G service. In the last quarter of 2020, T-Mobile is aiming to greatly expand the reach of its 2.5GHz mid-band 5G service to many more cities which should enable faster speeds. The company claims its mid-band coverage will increase from 30 million to 100 million people by the end of 2020. It is also looking to extend the reach of its standalone 5G technology which should help T-Mobile to improve its 5G Availability as well.
The arrival of the 5G iPhone. All iPhone 12 models support both 5G and mmWave 5G in the U.S. and their arrival should accelerate 5G adoption. The first units arrived in customers’ hands on October 23. Apple’s smartphones are a key part of the U.S. wireless market. AT&T in particular was the first carrier to market the iPhone and it continues to have a strong iPhone share. This launch means all major smartphone makers offer 5G models. It also means that the U.S. wireless customers who prefer Apple — approximately half of U.S. mobile users — now have a 5G option that the carriers can market.
U.S. carriers are continuing to be aggressive in marketing 5G — especially now there are 5G iPhones available — and are launching new 5G network technologies to extend 5G technology’s lead over 4G in the real-world. Opensignal will continue to analyze other aspects of U.S. carriers’ 5G efforts in future insights in this series.
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