By: Shane Mumma
Vanderbilt students, staff, and faculty who have 5G Verizon phones on supported plans may have noticed something new beginning on the second day of class of the Spring 2022 semester: greater access to Verizon’s 5G Ultra-Wideband network across campus. The coveted “5GUW” symbol that was once a rare sight is now a frequent occurrence on my phone while trekking around Vanderbilt.
On January 19, Verizon activated its C-Band spectrum of 5G Ultra-Wideband following a lengthy dispute with airlines claiming delays and safety concerns could arise from its eventual deployment. Airlines believed that C-band signals could disrupt airplanes’ radar altimeters, which planes use to detect their altitude—an exceptionally important function when visibility is low.
Following these delays and Verizon’s eventual C-band activation, I’ve noticed 5G Ultra-Wideband connections across Vanderbilt’s campus, such as around Commons Center. While the new 5G Ultra-Wideband signals don’t seem to add a better cellular connection inside buildings that have traditionally lacked good cell signal (Stevenson Library), Vanderbilt does boast strong Verizon 5G Ultra-Wideband signals outside in a number of places.
One cellular network speed test I ran outside on Vanderbilt’s campus on 5G UW with 5 full bars of signal showed a download speed of 190 Mbps, which is quite fast. However, when I performed the same test in a different location on campus with the same 5G UW connection and signal strength, it showed only a 40 Mbps download speed.
To put these numbers into perspective, Business Insider points out that most Americans have internet download speeds of between 12 and 25 Mbps, with the FCC calling internet at 25 Mbps ‘fast.’ However, wireless internet has the potential to be much faster, with Comcast offering up to 3,000 Mbps (3 Gbps) home internet, and my personal home WiFi speeds being upwards of 500 Mbps.
Thus, while there may be some variation in 5G UW speeds on Vanderbilt, it is still a very welcome improvement to have access to it and its high-speed signals across campus. Verizon customers who have a 5G UW compatible plan and compatible smartphone (such as models from the iPhone 12 or iPhone 13 lineups) should be able to access 5G UW on campus in covered locations. In my testing, I’ve used 5G UW on campus with an iPhone 13 Pro Max.