How US Carriers Are Preparing For The 5G Supercycle
Much has been said about a 5G supercycle happening later in 2020. One of the key beneficiaries (and enablers, in a way) of the new wave of demand for high-speed cellular services is Apple.
But not much can be expected of the new 5G-capable iPhone 12 unless a widespread 5G network is in place. As I mentioned recently, the US will be Apple’s main battleground in late 2020 and early 2021, since the 5G smartphone market in the country has yet to be deeply explored.
So today, I look at what the three main carriers in the US have been doing to prepare for a potential 5G device and service demand spike later this year.
T-Mobile spreads fast, Verizon has the depth
The graph below provides a good depiction of how far along AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have come in building out their 5G infrastructure. Notice that each carrier has its own strengths and weaknesses in the race for the hearts, minds and pockets of future 5G data consumers.
- Verizon: when it comes to the quality of the network, Verizon seems to be well ahead. It has become a trademark of the New York-based service provider to offer the fastest cellular service, even if its coverage outside large centers may lag those of its competitors. In PC Mag’s assessment, Verizon’s 5G speed and latency today are substantially better than those of its peers. However, the carrier lists only 35 major markets where 5G is currently available.
- T-Mobile: a look at the Uncarrier’s 5G map (below) shows that it is the most aggressive player in the space. The new technology is already available not only up and down the East Coast, but also in large pockets of the Midwest and South-Central regions. T-Mobile is the first carrier to have brought 5G to all 50 US states, and it offers the most 5G-compatible devices. The company’s “layer cake” approach to the network expansion, however, probably means that the great majority of its 5G service is based on low-band spectrum – therefore, relatively slow.
- AT&T: if T-Mobile is the king of coverage area, the Dallas carrier is catching up fast. Between PC Mag’s early June update and AT&T’s own press release dated June 15, the company added 40 million people under its 5G umbrella. The list of new markets recently added to the network shows that AT&T is spreading out wide and thin into less urban parts of the country, which may explain the low ratings on speed and latency.
Are we ready for the 5G supercycle?
A look at 5G networks across the US today reveals that much still needs to be done. Large chunks of the territory have yet to be covered by fast speed, low latency, mmWave service.
But to start, I believe that early adopters in the US already have the incentive to upgrade to 5G devices later this year. This is good news for Apple, provided that it can deliver its iPhone 12 without much delay.
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(Disclaimers: the author may be long one or more stocks mentioned in this report. Also, the article may contain affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence editorial content. Thanks for supporting The Apple Maven)