January 17, 2020

5G in Columbus: 2019 update

One of the most exciting and potentially transformative technologies to hit consumers across the United States is 5G wireless technology. This new standard for cellular connectivity promises a future full of faster and more in-depth connectivity that will bring consumers and businesses to new heights.

As we close out 2019, 5G is finally starting to make its full rollout to major U.S. markets. One can only wonder, when will it hit my area? 

Columbus is one of the largest cities in the midwest, so you would expect major mobile carriers to deploy 5G here as soon as possible, right? That is not exactly the case. Here is an update on the status of 5G in Columbus at the end of 2019. 

Verizon

Verizon plans to add Columbus to its list of 5G cities by the end of this year, according to a press release. The wireless giant currently has 5G service up and running in 18 cities with a plan of bringing service to 30 cities by the end of this year. Right now the carrier offers seven 5G-enabled devices to purchase for use on its Ultra Wideband 5G network.

Verizon is currently constructing cellular towers for its 5G service in areas of Columbus, such as the Olde Towne East neighborhood. Verizon’s version of 5G wireless technology requires smaller cell towers within shorter proximity of each other, so its new towers are being constructed in the middle of neighborhoods on the public strip of property in between the sidewalk and the street.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile has officially launched its 5G network “across the nation.” Their 5G network infrastructure plan is different from Verizon, though. The company plans on using three different bands of frequency to deliver 5G wireless service to customers. The company will first roll out its low-band service, which promises to cover greater distances and provide a stronger signal, at the sacrifice of speed. 

T-Mobile then plans on building out a high-band spectrum in dense urban areas, similar to how Verizon is building its entire 5G slate. To fill in the gaps, T-Mobile plans on using mid-band frequencies that it acquires through the proposed Sprint merger.

According to T-Mobile’s coverage map, Columbus does not yet have 5G coverage on T-Mobile’s nationwide service.

According to the company’s current coverage map (above) , the Columbus market is yet to receive any form of 5G service. Neighboring counties seem to have coverage in what one may assume is the low-band frequency, with Columbus expected to get high-band coverage sometime within the next year or so.

AT&T

AT&T currently offers a “5G Evolution” network in the Columbus market, but that is not true 5G

As far as a true 5G offering goes, AT&T currently has not announced its plans on when and how it plans to bring 5G wireless service to the Columbus market. The company has announced an initial list of U.S. cities that includes midwestern neighbors Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, but that’s the closest it has got to reaching Columbus.

The company plans on offering nationwide 5G in the first half of 2020. Information on how the company plans to roll out a mix of low, mid, and high band spectrum is not readily available as of right now. The wireless carrier does state that it will offer a 5G+ service in parts of select cities, though. This faster version of 5G will presumably run on a high-band frequency and be similar to the dense, urban area offerings of other carriers.

Sprint

Sprint is continuing independent operations as it waits for approval of its T-Mobile merger. This means that the company has its own 5G strategy separate from T-Mobile. Currently, the company offers 5G in nine major markets, none of which are in Ohio. The only Midwestern city to enjoy Sprint 5G right now is Chicago.

The company’s 5G technology is different than the other three major carriers. Sprint plans on rolling out 5G coverage by using excess mid-band frequency that it has access to. This means that instead of building new towers, Sprint will be attaching additional wireless equipment to its existing towers to offer 4G LTE/5G support. If the merger with T-Mobile goes through, the new company (simply called the “New T-Mobile”) will offer 5G on low, mid, and high-band frequencies to service customers in rural, suburban, and urban areas respectively.

5G is right around the corner

5G may not have fully arrived in Central Ohio as of the end of 2019, but expect that to change drastically over the course of the next year, as the new decade is sure to usher in some form of nationwide 5G for all major U.S. wireless carriers. If you want 5G as soon as possible, your best bet is to switch to Verizon. Don’t expect to get the best wireless coverage, though, as connection will probably be spotty until a proper network is fully established next year.

Of course, you will need a new phone to access 5G as well. Currently, only a few phones from Samsung, LG, and OnePlus support 5G connectivity but expect most major phone manufacturers to have a model supporting 5G release next year. This includes Apple, which is slated to have a brand new iPhone design release next year.

TL;DR: 5G isn’t quite here yet, but expect things to pick up quickly as we head into the new decade.

Zach Ferenchak

Zach Ferenchak is a current Junior studying Emerging Media with an emphasis in PR. Along with managing social media for The Chimes, Zach serves as the Chapter President for Capital University's chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. He hopes to one day use his communications skills to support creators in the video gaming or technology industries. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn

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