April 7, 2020
What does the introduction of 5G mean for the Prepaid Wireless world? Heck, the whole word!?
To 5G or not to 5G, that is the question. No, it really is a valid question. Let's start with one misnomer circulating out there - the "release" of 5G happened several months if not years ago. T-Mobile didn't invent 5G but they have been the loudest to tout their 5G networks benefits and advantages over their competitors AT&T and Verizon's networks, both of which have been running a form of their 5G for users for several months now. T-Mobile has officially launched their 5G this spring, curiously right around the same time that they are merging with Sprint. The merger alone means more changes coming to everyone - eventually - although both companies have said that the two networks will not be cross compatible for some time. Sprint folks will still be on the Sprint network using Sprint compatible handsets for a while until they roll out new software and hardware fixes to accomplish cross compatibility and what will ultimately be brand cohesion.
Hey here's something interesting - before we go any further - did you know that you have to have a 5G compatible phone to even get 5G strength signals and benefits. And guess what, Apple has no such compatible phone (yet), so 5G is an Android only feature right now and it's really only a handful of (expensive) phones that have the [Qualcomm] chipset needed for true 5G.
If you currently have, or are planning on soon buying, a 5G compatible device you will mostly be able to achieve 5G connectivity with only post-paid plans, but they are exceptions. Tracfone for example offers a real 5G experience on their SimpleMobile brand (on the T-Mobile network), but again you have to have a new 5G phone to make all that work. As the additional carriers go nationwide 5G, there will be better opportunity for prepaids to negotiate for some of that bandwidth and in turn offer those lines to their top tier plan holders.
Let's also just keep this in perspective. The 5G networks of all 3 carriers (wow that feels weird to say 3 carriers!) are still not great for many users. Verizon and AT&T's 5Gs have been hampered with slower than expected speeds and coverage drops through the walls of ones house...yes you heard me right. Streaming data from the coziness of your bedroom? Maybe not gonna happen tonight. T-Mobile's newly released 5G is built on a different structure and touts more seemless coverage for users, but users can still experience some stability issues.
The real question is are you ready to go full 5G knowing that it will mean the investment of a $1000 or more in a new ready phone and perhaps a switch to new carrier or upgraded tier plan to be on it. These are things you'll need to weigh according to your budget and needs.