It was a little earlier than planned, but Verizon turned on parts of his 5G network today and debuted in "selected areas" of Minneapolis and Chicago. Every carrier out there likes to separate and dice definitions to have "First 5G" everything, but when it comes to using a real, mmWave 5G signal and something like a 5G smartphone, Verizon has made the most progress yet to get one 5G ecosystem up and running.
5G is still in very early stages, with access in just a few cities and almost zero support. So it's been hard to know what 5G really wants to be in the real world. Verizon spokesman David Weissmann shared the best look yet on 5G on Twitter, showing a real-time 5G speed test, running on a real smartphone, and retrieving data from a real 5G tower. In particular, Weissmann was out in Minneapolis, pulled his Verizon ™ Moto Z3 phone with the Moto 5G Mod attached, and uploaded the Ookla Speedtest.net app. See his speed test:
Thrilled to be in Minneapolis as @verizon 5G UWB makes history!
Speed test here in front of US Bank Stadium
– David Weissmann (@djweissmann) April 3, 2019
Weissmann's cruise test ended with a blazing fast 762Mbps down and a 19ms ping video does not show upload speeds ). Unless you gibble gigabit internet at home, this is probably much faster than your home internet connection. Ookla's latest aggregate reports report the average US mobile download speed of 27 Mbps, while the average fixed broadband transmission in the United States is 96 Mbps.
Qualcomm's current 5G modem has a theoretical maximum speed of 5Gbps, but of course there is nothing to hit the theoretical maximum. Carriers are happy to throw about 5G rollovers and upcoming units, but it has been rare to see actual numbers associated with 5G. Weissmann's test is the closest we have come so far to see what true 5G performance is, and today's Verizon press release claims "early Chicago and Minneapolis customers should expect typical download speeds of 450 Mbps, with peak speeds of nearly 1 Gbps, and latency less than 30 milliseconds. "
The latency here is not large in relation to the previous promises of 5G. Verizon Home 5G Internet apparently has 4-8ms latency, while for mobile Verizon just promising around 30ms (and showing 19ms in speed test). According to the OpenSignal test, 4G LTE latency is usually around 54-64ms, so while this is a bit of an improvement, it's not as fast as we expected.
Verinson's Ideal Relationship
Reach the list of many warnings with this video and with 5G in general. Weissmann's test – which was probably pre-approved by Verizon – is run under ideal conditions. First he is standing next to a 5G tower with a clear field of view on a sunny day. Verin's 5G equipment is actually visible in the frame of the video. There are all the boxes and antennas that glamed on the bar to the left. 5G's real problems come in reach and penetration, so if you were indoors – or on the other side of a building, or if there was a tree in the way, or if you were farther away from the tower's performance, it would be significantly worse. 5G even has problems with the weather on a rainy or misty day, the performance will suffer. 5G is about building a network in the spectrum that we haven't used for other radio signals yet, and the reason why this spectrum is available is that performance characteristics are very challenging.
Second major warning: there is a good chance Weissmann was the only person on earth using Verin's 5G network at the time of this speed test. His own tweet refers to the test as "historic" and we must guess the user base with the 5G Verizon hardware active as soon as the 5G network went live, approaching "one person". With more people online, the network will slow down.
Third major warning: 5G hardware. 5G smartphones will be terrible in the first year, as first-generation 5G modems and antennas take up much more space and power than our refined, well-worn 4G technology. It will adversely affect phone design and battery life.
Weissmann's phone Moto Z3 with 5G MotoMod has a good chance of being the "worst 5G smartphone all the time." 5G MotoMod takes an old smartphone, the Moto Z3, and adds 5G compatibility to it via Motorola's cutting modular system. Thanks to the state of 5G hardware, the 5G MotoMod is almost a brand new smartphone that you cut at the back of your old smartphone. 5G MotoMod has a completely extra smartphone SoC inside it, Snapdragon 855. It is paired with a 5G modem, its own 2000mAh battery (because 5G needs a lot of power) and a whole lot of 5G antennas. If you could run apps on it, the MotoMod would be faster than the Snapdragon 835 powered Moto Z3.
Nevertheless, for something in a smartphone form factor, the Moto Z3 with the 5G backbone is the best we can do right now. The first fully integrated 5G smartphone will be the 5G version of the Samsung Galaxy S10, which will be released this month in South Korea.
Despite all the warnings, this feels like a big step in the wait for 5G. We only need much more coverage, more mature 5G hardware and more 5G smartphones. Even then, the appalling performance features of 5G make us wonder if any of this is actually worth it. In perfect conditions it's pretty fast though!