Verizon is making a big expansion of its 5G network: the carrier is now rolling out nationwide support for the new networking standard, which will reach more than 200 million people.
Until now, Verizon’s 5G has been almost exclusively focused on the mmWave band, which offers the fastest speeds but suffers from extremely poor range. That fact has meant that while AT&T and T-Mobile have been able to boast about broad 5G coverage for the entire country, Verizon has been limited to a few street corners of a small number of cities.
The reliance on mmWave has also meant that Verizon has had to work with device manufacturers to create bespoke mmWave versions of phones specifically for the carrier. The new DSS 5G network means that Verizon can now support sub-6GHz 5G and offer phones that only support that version of the networking standard.
Of course, Verizon didn’t just suddenly reverse its 5G strategy overnight or come up with a way to dramatically improve the range of its existing mmWave 5G. The new nationwide network is actually just sharing the existing spectrum and networking infrastructure that Verizon already uses for its LTE network, using new “dynamic spectrum sharing” (DSS) technology that lets the carrier run LTE and 5G networks side by side. (AT&T is also using the technology for parts of its 5G rollout.)
The upside of DSS is that it allows for Verizon to quickly expand its low-band 5G offerings. That gives it the same nationwide 5G footprint as AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s low-band networks without requiring that Verizon buy the spectrum and build out an entirely new network or cut down on its LTE offerings to allocate that space for 5G.
The new DSS-based Verizon 5G will be held back by the same limitations as its low-band competitors in exchange for that boosted range. Namely, due to the nature of the spectrum, speeds will be slower than the ultra-fast mmWave 5G that Verizon has been currently offering — although they should still offer an improvement over existing LTE speeds.
Verizon still says that mmWave will be the best experience for 5G and announced that it’ll be expanding its coverage for those areas — including in sports stadiums, landmarks, and parks. The company says it’ll be doubling coverage in cities like New York and San Fransisco, along with rolling it out in even more cities.