Verizon says that customers in “many markets across the US” could get significantly faster 5G speeds, even when they’re not right next to a cell tower. According to a press release on Monday, this is possible because Verizon’s deploying extra C-band spectrum; for some areas, the carrier’s now using 100 MHz of bandwidth instead of 60 MHz. The company says some engineers got blazing fast download speeds of 1.4 Gigabits per second when they were “near active cell sites,” which dropped down to a (still very fast) 500 Mbps after they moved “further away from the towers.”
Verizon didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s question about how far the engineers were from the towers when they conducted the test.
While people using Verizon’s ultra wideband network could theoretically get higher speeds than that, they’d have to do so using millimeter wave technology. That tech, however, is only available in a very select number of cities — and even where it does exist, you’ll likely have to basically be able to be within the tower’s line of sight if you want to be able to use it. In theory, C-band will be able to provide better speeds even when you’re not right next to the cell towers.
Verizon spokesperson Kevin King declined to tell The Verge exactly where the new spectrum is being activated today but said that the company has “100MHz of spectrum available in the 30 markets” it gained access to earlier this year. The company does, however, have some limitations on where and when it can roll out C-band coverage over the next year, thanks to its agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration to create buffer zones around airports for planes that might have their equipment affected by cellular signals.
While faster speeds are fun, Verizon’s also promising some other benefits from the extra spectrum. The company says the 100 MHz rollouts should give its network the capacity to handle more users and enable enough capacity for things like its 5G home internet.
The company has been promising to deploy more and more of its C-band spectrum for a while after it’s paid billions for the rights to use those airwaves. Its press release on Monday reiterates its plans to expand beyond the 100 MHz it’s using in some places today, up to 200 MHz in the future.
But as the company’s expanded its 5G network, it’s also raised prices on some of its plans. Verizon doesn’t exactly correlate those two things — it blames higher fees on “economic conditions” and “costs of complying with regulatory requirements.” The net effect, though, is that customers aren’t exactly getting faster speeds for free, even if their plans are staying the same. It’s also worth noting that not every Verizon 5G plan gives you access to the ultra wideband network and its 500 Mbps downloads.