A guide to 5G phone plans in the US

You’re the proud proprietor of a brand new 5G phone — congratulations! We’ve acquired some dangerous information, although: in case you reside in the US, 5G in all probability isn’t going to be the mind-bogglingly quick expertise that you simply’ve been promised. For most areas, it’s just a bit quicker than the 4G speeds we’re used to utilizing. But right here’s the excellent news: 5G goes to get higher, so in case you have a 5G phone it’s your decision to ensure your plan delivers it.

If you bought a phone lately, there’s likelihood it helps 5G. Pretty a lot each new phone in 2021 — with the exception of some finances fashions — will provide some type of 5G assist. Whatever your most well-liked model or working system, 5G is coming your approach quickly in case you don’t have it already.

Your phone is prepared for the subsequent massive factor, however what about your information plan? Across the board, the main US carriers’ limitless plans already embody entry to 5G. However, carriers provide a mixture of 5G bands that fluctuate in velocity and protection. It’s sophisticated, as all issues 5G have been because it first appeared in the US.

Consider this your guide to the present state of 5G and information plans in the US — which of them embody 5G, which don’t, what number of 5G they embody, and whether or not you must contemplate upgrading relying in your provider’s implementation of 5G.

One necessary notice for these with a 5G phone: even in case you uncover that your present plan does embody 5G and it’s obtainable in your space, you should still want to improve to a brand new SIM card in case you moved it over from an older machine. A SIM card that was activated in a 4G machine will nonetheless work with a 5G machine, however you might have hassle connecting to the 5G community. Check along with your provider in case you’re not seeing the little 5G emblem pop up in your display screen and also you suppose try to be.

For comparability functions, the costs listed in this text are for one line of service per thirty days earlier than taxes and charges. Additional strains carry down the month-to-month price per line, however your complete invoice will increase, in fact.


TL;DR: Unless you reside in considered one of the few areas with Verizon’s actually quick UW 5G, we don’t suppose there’s a purpose to change your plan simply but.

Verizon provides two styles of 5G, the quicker of which it calls “Ultra Wideband” (additionally referred to as millimeter wave or mmWave) and is on the market solely in sure components of sure cities. It’s scarce, however it’s mind-bogglingly quick, and also you’ll see a 5G UW emblem in your phone display screen in case your phone is utilizing that community. Oh, and 5G UW alerts don’t attain indoors for the most half, so in case you’re spending most of your time inside your home or residence proper now, you in all probability wouldn’t choose it up even in case you reside in a spot the place it’s obtainable.

Verizon information plans with 5G

Plan 5G entry
Plan 5G entry
Unlimited (postpaid) Start Unlimited: Nationwide 5G solely. All others: UW and Nationwide
Data-capped (postpaid) Nationwide solely
Unlimited (pay as you go) Nationwide solely*
Data-capped (pay as you go) Nationwide solely

All however considered one of Verizon’s postpaid limitless plans contains UW 5G entry. *UW is coming to pay as you go in early 2021.

“Nationwide” is the firm’s different 5G, a low-band selection that’s slower than mmWave however provides a lot broader protection. In truth, it’s generally a bit slower than 4G, so in case you’re not pleased with the 5G speeds you’re getting, it’s your decision to strive limiting your phone to LTE and see if issues enhance.

Check Verizon’s protection map to see what’s obtainable in your space. If you do reside in a metropolis with UW 5G, be certain to zoom all the approach in to see the actual areas and streets with protection — they’re marked in a darker shade of purple that can seem when you zoom in shut sufficient.

Verizon’s Shared Data (information capped) plans and its $80-per-month primary limitless plan embody the lower-tier Nationwide 5G solely. For entry to UW in addition to Nationwide 5G, you’ll want at the very least the $90 “Play More” limitless plan. Verizon provides $10 off these month-to-month costs in case you enroll in auto pay.

Verizon additionally contains 5G on its pay as you go information plans, which begin at $65 per thirty days for limitless information or $40 per thirty days for a 5GB data-capped plan. There’s a $5 month-to-month low cost for auto pay as effectively. For now, UW 5G isn’t obtainable for pay as you go clients, however Verizon says that’s altering in 2021.


TL;DR: Don’t fear about switching up your AT&T plan for 5G.

AT&T’s historical past with 5G is… fraught. Early on, the firm marketed what was basically LTE know-how as “5G E” and (rightfully) caught a variety of flak for it. You received’t see that time period in any of the firm’s advertising and marketing as of late, however AT&T clients nonetheless would possibly see a 5G E emblem on their phone display screen when linked to this service. If you do see it, know that what you’re getting is just not actually 5G.

AT&T information plans with 5G

Plan 5G entry
Plan 5G entry
Unlimited (postpaid) 5G and 5G Plus
Data-capped (postpaid) None
Unlimited (pay as you go) 5G and 5G Plus (Unlimited Plus plan solely)
Data-capped (pay as you go) None

Most limitless clients, pay as you go or postpaid, have entry to each flavors of AT&T 5G.

Outside of that debacle, AT&T has invested in its true 5G choices, that are structured equally to Verizon’s: a quick mmWave model referred to as 5G Plus in restricted locations and slower however extra widespread commonplace 5G protection. However, 5G Plus could also be much more scarce than Verizon’s UW 5G. The firm doesn’t present any protection maps for it, and it says solely that it’s deployed in “select innovation zones” in components of sure cities. Testers for PCMag’s annual cellular community check didn’t encounter 5G Plus in cities the place AT&T provides it. The provider’s commonplace 5G is of the low-band selection related to Verizon’s Nationwide, and PCMag testers additionally discovered that it generally lagged behind 4G.

All of that is to say that AT&T’s 5G actually isn’t price upgrading your plan for but, however in case you’re on any of the firm’s limitless plans, you wouldn’t want to anyway. Both 5G and 5G Plus are included in all postpaid limitless plans, which begin at $75 per thirty days ($65 with auto pay). The Unlimited Plus pay as you go plan additionally contains it at $75 per thirty days ($60 with auto pay). AT&T’s solely postpaid 4GB data-capped plan doesn’t embody 5G and neither do its different pay as you go plans.

AT&T could have had a considerably rocky begin with 5G, however the know-how will enhance. And for now at the very least, the firm isn’t charging a premium for its quickest 5G variant.

AT&T 5G protection map


TL;DR: All of T-Mobile’s postpaid plans embody 5G. If you’re on the base limitless plan and reside in a congested space you would possibly discover you might have extra dependable entry to 5G by upgrading. But no want in case you don’t discover slowdowns.

Of the three massive carriers, T-Mobile is likely to be in the greatest place to carry actually faster-than-LTE 5G to the most individuals — but it surely doesn’t appear to be there fairly but. Verizon and AT&T’s efforts have been concentrated round excessive and low-band choices. T-Mobile provides each, too, but it surely’s additionally engaged on changing Sprint’s former midband frequencies to 5G. This is likely to be a candy spot: not as quick as the mmWave stuff, however genuinely quicker than 4G. Recent evaluation from PCMag exhibits the community isn’t delivering on that promise simply but, however T-Mobile promised to lengthen midband 5G to 100 million individuals by the finish of this 12 months and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time quickly.

All of the firm’s postpaid plans embody 5G, beginning with the $65 per thirty days ($60 with autopay) Essentials plan. One caveat: clients on that base-level plan are the first ones topic to slowdowns when the community is congested. T-Mobile doesn’t provide 5G on its pay as you go plans.

T-Mobile information plans with 5G

Plan 5G entry
Plan 5G entry
Unlimited (postpaid) Yes
Data-capped (postpaid) n/a
Unlimited (pay as you go) No
Data-capped (pay as you go) No

All of T-Mobile’s postpaid limitless plans embody 5G.

For now, we expect T-Mobile clients can keep placed on their present plan. Essentials plan clients who’re pleased with their community speeds and don’t discover slowdowns in all probability wouldn’t achieve a lot from upgrading simply but. But it will likely be fascinating to see if T-Mobile could make good on its bold guarantees to carry meaningfully quick 5G to extra of its clients in 2021.

T-Mobile 5G protection map

US Cellular

TL;DR: All plans (pre- and postpaid) embody entry to 5G.

US Cellular 5G is of the low-band selection, so it’s nonetheless solely slightly quicker than 4G. But the excellent news is in case you’re on US Cellular, you might have entry to the firm’s 5G: all plans (pre- and postpaid) embody it. And in case you’re in a rural space, US Cellular is extra doubtless to provide 5G to you now, whereas main carriers’ protection remains to be principally concentrated round larger cities. So there’s not a lot to deliberate right here, in case you have a 5G phone and your space is roofed, try to be in a position to join. We simply wouldn’t advise anybody to swap to US Cellular solely as a result of it provides 5G the place they reside.

US Cellular protection map

MVNOs: Cricket, Metro by T-Mobile, and so on.

TL;DR: If you’re joyful along with your MVNO plan, don’t swap issues up only for 5G.

Most cellular digital community operators, or MVNOs, do embody 5G on their plans. Cricket’s limitless plan provides 5G entry utilizing AT&T’s 5G community ($60 per thirty days for one line). All Mint Mobile plans embody entry to 5G on T-Mobile’s community, and Metro by T-Mobile pay as you go plans include 5G entry, beginning with a 10GB plan for $40 / month.

A vital caveat although: since MVNOs don’t personal the networks they use, provider subscribers are doubtless to get preferential remedy when there’s congestion. If you’re searching for the better of the greatest speeds, considered one of the massive three is likely to be the approach to go. But once more, that actuality remains to be a methods off. Chances are, you wouldn’t be upgrading to a night-and-day expertise in case you did swap.

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