Verizon said it obtained 5G speed of 4.2 Gbps in a trial on the company’s live network. The company achieved this by combining eight channels of 28 GHz millimeter wave spectrum using carrier aggregation. A total of 800 MHz supported the trial.

Verizon said eight-channel carrier aggregation using millimeter wave spectrum will be “widely available” on the company’s 5G network this year.

The 4.2 Gbps speed not only is orders of magnitude faster than today’s typical cellular network connection, it’s also faster than almost all residential wireline broadband provider speeds, which rarely exceed 1 Gbps. That being said, these top end speed achievements rarely translate into real-world live network performance at scale.

Samsung, Motorola Mobility, and Qualcomm Technologies supported Verizon’s 5G trial using eight-carrier aggregation. Verizon previously achieved 1.7 Gbps in a trial using a 400-MHz swath of 28 GHz spectrum.

Verizon 5G Speed
Verizon already had the fastest 5G speed, according to OpenSignal, which measured Verizon’s current average 5G speed at 722.9 Mbps, making it the fastest cellular provider in the U.S.

Verizon’s fast 5G speeds are due, in large part, to the company’s decision to use millimeter wave spectrum for its initial 5G deployments. Higher-frequency spectrum, including millimeter wave spectrum, supports faster speeds in comparison with lower-frequency spectrum. The downside is that the range that higher-frequency spectrum can support is considerably less, which means that a millimeter wave 5G deployment requires denser cellsite infrastructure, increasing deployment costs and lengthening deployment time.

T-Mobile already claims near-nationwide coverage for its 5G network deployed in low-frequency – also known as low-band – spectrum. But according to OpenSignal, that company’s average 5G speed was just 47.5 Mbps, which is only marginally faster than typical 4G service.

Eventually, all carriers plan to use a mixture of low-band, mid-band and millimeter wave spectrum for 5G. But carriers’ decisions about which spectrum band to use first were driven, in large part, by their spectrum portfolios. Verizon and AT&T had considerable millimeter wave spectrum holdings and therefore used that spectrum for initial launches.

Since then, T-Mobile has obtained considerable millimeter wave spectrum, and Sprint is unlikely to need any, as its merger with T-Mobile appears poised for approval.

We sometimes hear that mid-band spectrum offers the optimum mix of range and speed, but Verizon’s latest 5G speed achievement reminds us that millimeter wave spectrum – and lots of it – will play an important role in making networks as future-proof as possible.

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