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Verizon is once again giving you a reason to turn 5G off

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New testing by PCMag shows CBRS-boosted Verizon 4G outperforming its nationwide 5G by a wide margin

Despite years of promotion, Verizon’s 5G network still lags behind 4G.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Verizon 4G appears to be getting even better than its nationwide 5G network, according to new tests conducted by PCMag’s Sascha Segan. After last week’s tweet suggesting that users turn off their phone’s 5G to conserve battery life, there seems to be a multitude of reasons for Verizon customers to stick with 4G right now.

Additional spectrum is making the difference for Verizon 4G right now, and not the C-band spectrum that’s been in the news recently. This is CBRS, a set of frequencies that sits near C-band. Verizon bid $1.89 billion on CBRS licenses last year and has been putting the newly acquired spectrum to work for its 4G service in certain locations (there are likely technical reasons, which Segan explains in his post, why Verizon isn’t using this spectrum for 5G just yet).

Segan found a couple of these spots and tested CBRS-assisted 4G speeds versus 5G. With the exception of range-limited, super-fast Ultra Wideband 5G, 4G won by a landslide. In one location, 4G download speeds reached 815 Mbps, while 5G based on Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (that’s the widespread but slower variety known as DSS) only hit 358 Mbps. This was a test of just a couple of locations of course, but Segan points out that it bodes well for the kinds of improvements we can expect when C-band becomes available.

So is there any reason for someone on Verizon to keep 5G active rather than switching to 4G? Maybe, Segan tells us. “If you’re in a spot with Verizon’s ‘UWB’ millimeter-wave 5G, it’s absolutely terrific. UWB is the fastest form of 5G available today. But the DSS ‘nationwide’ 5G just isn’t providing any advantage right now. I’d say, turn it off if you can and check back in a few months to see if they’ve improved the situation.”

The silver lining, of course, is that Verizon 4G is actually good — and getting even better for some. In the long term, it’ll be the C-band spectrum that will likely make the difference for Verizon 5G. “If you’re buying a Verizon phone soon and you’re interested in future performance, make sure it has C-band,” Segan says. In the meantime, unless you live next door to an Ultra Wideband cell site, you can probably turn off 5G and rest assured that you’re getting the best network performance possible for now.