Best 5G network 2021 | Android Central

by Joseph K. Clark

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central


  • 5G network
  • Android Central
  • 2021

The best 5G network will have a good balance of speed and coverage with room to grow and added capacity as 5G adoption increases. 5G connectivity is now available to hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. thanks to improved support from phone makers and sub-6 5G networks. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon offer 5G coverage with sub-6 and mmWave. While AT&T and Verizon anxiously await the release of their expensive C-band spectrum, T-Mobile has the best overall 5G network thanks to its wide sub-6 at both 600MHz and 2.5GHz coverage with room to grow with mmWave and C-band spectrum in the coming years.

Best overall: T-Mobile

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

T-Mobile’s 5G network covers millions of people in the U.S., and if you live in an urban or suburban area, there’s a good chance you have coverage. This is primarily thanks to T-Mobile’s low-band 600Mhz spectrum, which offers excellent range and speeds comparable to fast LTE. T-Mobile is also improving its 5G network with Sprint’s mid-band 2.5GHz spectrum and its mmWave spectrum.

Millimeter-Wave, or mmWave spectrum, refers to frequencies over 28GHz, available in massive chunks and allowing for breakneck speeds. This spectrum is ideal for dealing with large crowds in stadiums or convention centers. Sub-6 5G uses the same frequencies used in LTE and Wi-Fi, ranging from 600MHz to 6GHz. T-Mobile has also acquired a healthy spread of the C-band spectrum, which sits between 2.5GHz and mmWave regarding speed and coverage.

5G network

With this setup, T-Mobile can achieve greater capacity in dense urban areas while offering strong coverage in suburban and rural areas. You can check out T-Mobile’s 5G coverage if you want to see if it’s in your area, and if you have a phone compatible with its sub-6 5G, you’ll be covered by most of the network. While it remains to be seen exactly how much T-Mobile will utilize mmWave in the coming years, its vast sub-6 advantage means T-Mobile can focus on developing its network rather than scrambling to catch up.

T-Mobile and its prepaid carriers have no plan requirements for 5G connectivity. It would help if you had a phone connecting to T-Mobile’s band n71 and band n41. Luckily, this includes selling the most unlocked 5G phones, such as the Galaxy S21 series and the Pixel 5.


  • Low-band, mid-band, and high-band
  • All plans support 5G
  • Great coverage
  • MVNO access


  • Speeds comparable to LTE in most areas

Best overall


Tons of spectrum potential

T-Mobile is building 5G with coverage and room to grow in speed and capacity thanks to a wide range of spectrum available.

Best mmWave: Verizon Wireless

Source: Michael Fisher

One of Verizon’s most significant strengths for years has been its massive LTE network, and even with 5G hype growing, that’s the network most Verizon customers will be using for quite a while. Verizon has been catching up with its DSS sub-6 5G network since its launch in late 2020, but it’s still the smallest. Verizon started out building a mmWave 5G network it calls Ultra-Wideband (UWB), and while it’s undoubtedly the most impressive mmWave network around, its coverage leaves a lot to be desired. This will get better once Verizon is allowed to deploy its C-band spectrum. But for now, UWB is still mmWave.

Remember that UWB is only available on the top unlimited plans with a compatible phone. It’s nice that if you’re using UWB, you don’t have any data or speed caps compared to sub-6. Verizon’s sub-6 5G network, or Nationwide 5G, is the newest major sub-6 network in the country, but it has been making great strides to catch up to AT&T and T-Mobile. Still, it’s sharing spectrum with its LTE network, meaning that most of the time, it won’t be significantly faster than LTE and may even fall behind a well-developed LTE network.

Still, it’s nice that Verizon is developing a 5G solution for mmWave in urban areas with coverage options for the rest of us. Verizon’s UWB network is a considerable investment. It will take a long time to build, but it can lead to significant advancements in connectivity, especially in areas with poor wired service.


  • Home service with Ultra-Wideband
  • Low-band and high-band
  • Nationwide 5G is on most plans
  • Ultra-Wideband is still one of the fastest connections around


  • The available spectrum limits nationwide speeds
  • Ultra-Wideband is only on a few plans

Best mmWave

Verizon Wireless

Speed is the top priority

Verizon is building a robust network with sub-6 5G and mmWave on deck for future applications and home internet service.

Great potential: AT&T

AT&T started by building one of the largest mmWave 5G networks around, but at the end of 2019, AT&T began rolling out its sub-6 850MHz sub-6 network to make some real headway on coverage. AT&T uses Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) to beef up its 5G network by sharing spectrum with its LTE network. Most AT&T customers connecting to 5G will now use the 850MHz range.

AT&T has swiftly adapted its network where needed with a combination of dedicated 5G bands, DSS, and mmWave where appropriate. C-band 5G is coming in late 2021 to help bridge the gap between AT&T’s low-band and high-band 5G signals. Also, AT&T’s 4G LTE network is one of the fastest around, especially where it’s fully developed. Still, AT&T’s 5G network is impressive thanks to its rapid growth, and its robust LTE network is friendly to have as a fallback.

Customers with compatible phones and a plan that supports 5G can access both networks for improved speeds. Most AT&T unlimited plans support Nationwide 5G with a compatible phone, but a few smaller data plans do not. AT&T also has fewer prepaid 5G options than T-Mobile, and those supporting it, like Cricket, require an expensive program. It’s worth remembering that AT&T has taken to calling its advanced LTE network 5GE on some older phones. This does not mean you are connected to 5G in any way and means you are connected to the best of 4G LTE.


  • Great coverage
  • Sub-6 and mmWave network
  • Fast speeds on mmWave


  • Most speeds comparable to LTE
  • 5GE icon confuses customers
  • Some plans still don’t offer 5G

Great potential


AT&T follows up on one of the most successful LTE networks with a fast 5G network with mmWave coverage in many cities, offering even greater speeds.

Bottom Line

AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have sub-6 and mmWave networks with varying 5G coverage. T-Mobile took an early lead in 5G coverage thanks to its low-band spectrum, but AT&T wasn’t too far behind its low-band network. While AT&T spent more time focusing on mmWave, it’s still managing to keep up with T-Mobile’s pace with rapid expansion. Verizon was the last to deploy sub-6 5G but had been making solid progress with the network. AT&T and Verizon won’t catch up with T-Mobile until they can use the C-band spectrum.

T-Mobile bet the farm on 5G, which seems to be paying off. Regardless of your appearance, T-Mobile has the best 5G coverage with the most sub-6 spectrum ready for deployment. Regarding 5G, T-Mobile quickly has the best cell phone plan. While AT&T and Verizon are making rapid progress trying to catch up, T-Mobile’s great low-band spectrum gave it a significant lead, and T-Mobile has kept up its information thanks to its high-band mmWave spectrum and the mid-band spectrum it got from its purchase of Sprint. With all these elements, T-Mobile is poised to hold onto its 5G lead, and it has the range to keep expanding.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Samuel Contreras When Samuel is not writing about networking, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It’s the Pentium 3.

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.<img src=”” alt=”The Galaxy S21 Ultra is Verizon’s best phone” srcset=” 300w,&#10; 200w,&#10; 100w” data-size=”4x3small” sizes=”150px” loading=”lazy”/>

Related Posts