With the launch of Verizon’s new mobile 5G network in Chicago and Minneapolis, we rushed to Chicago to test the next generation data network that will soon take the world by storm. We dragged ourselves on the streets looking for a Moto Z3 and then resorted to the limited spaces where a 5G signal was being broadcast.
Our Daily 5G Testing
8th April: The 5G network appears to be progressing, as our latest test downloading a 595MB movie from Netflix managed to complete in less than 3 minutes. However, there was fluctuating speed through the whole download and 3-6 MB/s speed was observed most of the time.
7th April: An unstable 5G signal was picked up in an apartment building in the West Loop while near the window and managed to reach a speed test of 28.3Mbps only.
6th April: Inquisitive about switching between 5G and 4G LTE in some areas, we carried a speed test in the West Loop. However if switching was simply a matter of the network being unused, then starting a download or network speed test should have stopped the behavior. As soon as we start a speed test, the quick switching continued, and the speed dipped to 19Mbps. We then started a Netflix movie download that mustered 2 to 3MB/s, but the switching continued, with connectivity never locking into 5G.
8th April: Checking to make sure Netflix and the Play Store weren’t hampering speed, we connected to Wi-Fi and retried the downloads. The movie downloaded at close to 20MB/s and the game downloaded at about 13MB/s, surmounting what we could get on our 5G connection.
7th April: After another 5G field tour, we found a steady signal at the base of a building that seemed like it would have actually blocked
6th April Further into West
5th April: The 4G and 5G switched back and forth as we walked into The West Loop on a street. Ran a speed test while the network was toggling and got 47.4Mbps downstream.
4th April: Left the West Loop after a day generally spent without 5G. The millimeter wave technology used is quite reliant on line of sight, thus
2nd April: We darted outside into the rain to see how long it’d take to download The Raid Redemption at 446MB on the 5G network but we ceased after 2 minutes and 30 seconds as we netted only 44MB. A quick speed test showed the minimum speeds of 59.9Mbps, we’d seen all day.
2nd April: Was unable to get 5G while sitting next to a window in a grocery store on the same corner.
2nd April: Couldn’t get
We literally assembled together the world’s first 5G phone when we slapped the newly-launched 5G Moto Mod onto the back of an existing 4G phone.
And it is indeed faster, according to our on-the-ground 5G tests using the Moto Z3, last year’s 4G LTE phone that can be upgraded to 5G care of the new 5G add-on. Yes! 5G service is here, and it’s coming together in bits and pieces.
The 5G Mod was available at only one Chicago store on launch day and it was quicker than predicted. Motorola and Verizon plunged earlier than their original April 11 launch to become the first to 5G phone manufacturer and carrier, overtaking Samsung’s scheduled April 5 launch in Korea.
Expressing his thoughts on
In spite of taking the lead in the world, Verizon still has problems knocking at the door.
5G service availability
The network is only launched in Chicago and Minneapolis and yet the availability is bounded in each city as only few wards of both the cities are covered in 5G network. It seems that Verizon is still far away from an extensive launch and surprisingly it has not released any coverage map for customers to see.
These are dense areas of Chicago, including Magnificent Mile (specifically the Verizon store), Gold Coast, Old Town, River North, and portions of South Loop and West Loop. Minneapolis’ 5G coverage areas are in Downtown West, Downtown East, Elliot Park, and the Mall of America’s Verizon Store.
Aside from the hands-on in the Magnificent Mile Verizon Store where the launch event took place, we knew getting to experience 5G in the wild might take a bit of work.
Now coming to the total damage done- we needed both the Moto Z3, the 5G Moto Mod, an unlimited data plan from Verizon, and we had to pay a special $10 5G service fee (at present, the $10 fee is waived) on top of the data plan to access the 5G network. In the end, the hardware cost us $749 at the store (without opting for a contract where there are some discounts), and service will cost about $100 a month.
So, Is It Really Worth It?
5G vs 4G LTE speeds
In the Verizon Store where the launch event took place, there was a 5G node set up at the front. And, with a short distance between the Moto Z3 and the node, with line of sight, the device managed to hit 651Mbps downstream. On the contrary, a test later on the 4G network hit 213Mbps downstream. Meanwhile, upstream data actually only uses 4G, so there’s no speed boost for that.
All the 1080p videos on YouTube started playing instantly as we switch from one to another. Scrubbing through each video’s runtime caused a momentary pause before playback resumed. However, there was not a remarkable difference when 4G was used for playing videos.
To further probe the connectivity, we moved to Play Store to download the hefty 1.81GB PUBG Mobile game. On the 5G network, the download took just shy of 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Repeating the download on the 4G network, the download took 6 minutes and 8 seconds.
So, while the 5G network surely is ahead of the two, it’s not by an order of magnitude.
Over the course of our initial hands-on, we seriously questioned Verizon’s 5G network’s reliability.
The Verizon Store was scarcely bigger than 30 feet across and 100 feet back, with a 5G node in the front of the building. The reception was erratic toward the back, and would even drop out near the front. There were several episodes of switching from 5G to 4G LTE as we moved around and we had to check whether we were consistent with the 5G connection all way through.
As of Moto Z3, it is a simple phone lacking any flagship feature but yet a strong phone at a bargain price. It is a trump card for Verizon to reach a wider audience through 5G at a low cost only by buying the Z3 and a 5G Moto Mod. However it has to still prove itself in performance with the network.