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Why the U.S. Rollout of 5G Is So Slow


Fast, or some variation of the word, is often used to describe the speeds promised by 5G.

The same cannot be said about the rollout of 5G networks in the U.S.

The promise of fifth-generation wireless networks has drawn headlines for at least three years, but 5G that lives up to the hype has yet to arrive for most Americans. All of the major U.S. wireless carriers say they have nationwide 5G service, but industry analysts say that service is largely indistinguishable from 4G LTE service. Wireless services with speeds notably better than what’s available today may not reach most Americans until later this year at the earliest, research firm Evercore ISI forecasts.

“Overall, you’re looking at some time in the end of ‘21 to end of ‘23 to get two-thirds of the country’s population covered with a 5G service that’s notably better than what is currently out there on 4G,” says Evercore analyst James Ratcliffe.

That time frame means the first carrier isn’t expected to reach two-thirds of the country with significantly higher-speed 5G until 30 months after the first 5G-capable phones made their debut in mid-2019, Mr. Ratcliffe says, compared with about 18 months for 4G following the launch of the first 4G-capable phones in fall 2010.



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