5G is about to accomplish a significant feat. In its most recent mobility report, telecom equipment manufacturer Ericsson predicts that by the end of the year, 1 billion wireless subscribers worldwide will be connected to 5G. That is still far behind 4G, which in 2022 will have about 5 billion subscribers. However, according to Ericsson, the growth of 4G will reach its peak at the end of the year, and 5G will overtake 4G as the dominant connectivity standard. For many of us, faster speeds are coming, but they’ll also probably cost more.
By the end of 2022, about 35% of mobile subscribers in North America—where carriers have been proclaiming the superiority of 5G for the past three years—will be using the technology. The good news is that mid-band 5G, also known as the good stuff, is now available to 80% of US citizens. I love that! Wide coverage and speeds that are actually faster than LTE are offered by mid-band. However, as 5G takes hold, Ericsson sees a different trend: carriers charging more for faster speeds. This trend is likely to continue for some time to come.
The majority of Western Europe is mentioned in Ericsson’s report on higher 5G prices because there, wireless plans are frequently divided up into various speed tiers. However, it’s not an uncommon practice; according to Ericsson, “there are 25% of carriers who charge a premium for 5G, over their 4G service, with an average price premium of around 40%.”
It’s a complicated story in the US. The three major wireless carriers can assert that they do not charge extra for 5G because it is included in all of their unlimited data plans. On Verizon, however, you need a “premium” unlimited plan to access mid-band 5G, while its less expensive unlimited plans are only compatible with slower “Nationwide 5G,” which is much more similar to LTE.
All of T-unlimited Mobile’s plans come with mid-band 5G, but those on the $60/month Essentials plan are always subject to data deprioritization, which means slower speeds when the network is busy. You can get unlimited “premium” data that won’t be slowed down based on network traffic and your usage by paying much more for the $85 per month Magenta Max plan.
Therefore, there isn’t a premium for 5G, but there is still a premium of sorts for 5G. According to Ericsson, the practice of using speed to persuade customers to upgrade will continue. The speed tier strategy is “gaining momentum,” according to the company’s report, and now 24% of those with a 5G offering use it to segment the market and encourage customers to move up to higher-priced tiers. In 2023, anticipate more 5G bars in more locations, but be prepared to pay for them as well.