Charter Communications has switched on access to Verizon 5G for subscribers to its Spectrum Mobile unlimited plan.
Charter said its unlimited wireless tier users, who pay $45 per line, will be able to access Verizon’s millimeter wave-based 5G service in the limited number of urban areas in which it is available at no additional cost.
Spectrum Mobile users who are on the by-the-gig pricing plan will remain locked into 4G LTE service. Charter’s 5G marketing page for Spectrum Mobile users can be found here.
Last month, Verizon, No. 1 U.S. wireless operator, said it will nearly double its number of millimeter wave cities from a current count of 31 to 60 this year. The Verizon 5G service is currently available in limited areas of New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and several other cities.
Millimeter-wave spectrum is made up of ultra-high frequency radio waves in the 24 Gigahertz to 100 GHz range, which can hold and deliver gobs more data. Early 5G networks using millimeter-wave technology promise speeds as high as 6 Gigabits per second, evolving one day to as high as 20 Gbps. Latency is also vastly improved, too, going from 20-70 milliseconds with 4G to as low as the ultra-responsive sub-1 millisecond range.
However, establishing ubiquitous 5G coverage is no small engineering feat. The ultra-high frequencies require signals to broadcast at very short range — around 600 to 800 feet — meaning Verizon must festoon every street in each city where it deploys 5G with gobs of “small cell” devices. These short-throw, ultra-high frequencies are also prone to all sorts of interference, falling leaves included. And they don’t penetrate walls or buildings.
Spectrum Mobile has a bring-your-own-device option. But it now is offering monthly financing plans on Samsung S20 series 5G smart phones.
Charter said it added 288,000 Spectrum Mobile subscriber lines in the fourth quarter, upping its total to 1.08 million. It doesn’t break down how many of its users are on unlimited plans, however.
Charter is pursuing new technologies including CBRS to establish more owner’s economics in terms of its wireless network use. But for now, Spectrum Mobile remains almost entirely reliant on its MVNO wholesale agreement with Verizon.