At this point, football fans have seen so many ads from AT&T and Verizon claiming to have the fastest and most reliable 5G service on the planet that those without a 5G smartphone might think they are really missing something. Don’t be misled. Unless you are traveling internationally, you won’t enjoy faster speeds with a new 5G-enabled smartphone than you’d get on a 4G phone streaming games from New York, Los Angeles or many other U.S. cities. AT&T’s and Verizon’s new 5G networks are often significantly slower than the 4G networks they replace. America is far behind in almost every dimension of 5G while other nations—including China—race ahead.
America’s average 5G mobile internet speed is roughly 75 megabits per second, which is abysmal. In China’s urban centers 5G phones get average speeds of 300 megabits per second. Though that’s not quite the fastest 5G in the world—South Korea claims that title at over 400 Mbps—it’s still fast enough to download a high-definition movie in two minutes. Mobile internet speed is a central advancement of 5G, which enables a new domain of breakthrough applications with potent economic and national-security implications. American 5G upload speeds are slower than those of many developed countries, including Israel, Singapore and Canada. In Boston, Chicago and New York City, AT&T’s 5G speeds are at least 10% slower than its 4G; in Washington, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, Verizon’s 5G speeds are at least 20% slower than the company’s 4G.