Over the last year, we have seen 5G phones drop dramatically in price with a few notable options (even among our best budget phones). But it has still been hard to recommend that anyone rush out to buy a phone for 5G because, thus far, it offers very few advantages over 4G and, in many areas, is worse.
Verizon has taken a major step toward solving that problem on its network by winning an FCC auction for a large chunk of C-band spectrum that is optimal for 5G, but only customers on its premium unlimited plans will gain access to the new and improved 5G when it rolls out (via 9to5Mac).
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That means customers on either metered data plans or the Start Unlimited plan will be limited to the current low-band 5G that is probably best known currently as the thing you need to turn off to get better battery life on your phone.
Upgrading to the higher-tier Play More, Do More or Get More Unlimited plans will grant you the ability to access the new C-band spectrum. The greater prevalence of this spectrum should not only deliver better speeds than what you are seeing on the low-band currently, but also diminish the battery life problems that many are encountering as the phones aren't forced to continually search for the network.
Verizon spent $45.4 billion to win this auction and is planning to spend another $10 billion to properly roll out the C-band over the next three years, so it's understandable that the carrier is going to try to recoup that cost. However, it does feel like an acknowledgment that the current 5G network Verizon has been pushing is far from the amazing experience it has been advertising.
The truth is that we still haven't seen a killer application that justifies the need for 5G, even if it were better than it is right now. So, in that sense, even if you are on a lower-tier Verizon plan, don't worry too much about this news, you'll get more out of your phone by shutting off that 5G for the extra battery life and continuing to use the reliable and pervasive 4G LTE network.