Verizon's 5G service launches in New York City tomorrow (Sept. 26). And while it's not the first city where the carrier has flipped the switch on its faster network — as of this writing, Verizon's 5G network is live in 11 cities and more than a dozen NFL stadiums. But New York is certainly the biggest city to be included in Verizon's 5G rollout, so expectations for the service are equally big.
Verizon's 5G experience launching in New York will be similar to what we've seen in other cities. On the plus side, that means fast download speeds — 5G often means download speeds of around 1 Gbps, though in many cases, Verizon can blow past that mark.
At a demo today (Sept. 25) in front of the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, a Verizon rep showed me a Galaxy S10 5G that hit a download speed of nearly 1.5 Gbps on Ookla's Speedtest.net app. He was also able to download a movie off of Netflix outside New York's Penn Station in less than 30 seconds. We plan to verify all this with our own testing, but it's in line with what we've seen when we've tested Verizon's network in Chicago and Providence, Rhode Island.
Where you can get Verizon 5G in NYC
As with other cities, Verizon's 5G presence in New York will be limited to select areas. In Manhattan, the carrier is promising 5G connectivity around Midtown, the Financial District, Harlem, East Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen and Washington Heights. Downtown Brooklyn and parts of the Bronx (Pelham Bay, Fordham Heights, and Hunt’s Point) will also have access to the faster network.
Your best bet is to check around notable landmarks and places where a lot of people congregate — Bryant Park, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Madison Square Garden and the Theatre District on Broadway between 49th and 52nd Streets are among the areas where 5G service will be turned on.
Verizon 5G caveats
While the fast download speeds we've seen in other cities will now be available in New York, so will the other limitations we've seen with Verizon's network. Uploads are still available only over LTE. (Only Providence's upload speeds are now ramped up to 5G.)
You've also got to be in the line of sight of one of Verizon's 5G nodes. That Galaxy S10 5G that approached the 1.5 Gbps was no more than 300 yards away from a Verizon 5G tower; had we stepped inside the convention center, though, that 5G connection would no longer have been available.
Verizon's approach has drawn some criticism, most notably from rival carrier T-Mobile, which never misses a chance to tweak its larger competitor. T-Mobile has put up billboards around New York taunting Verizon for spotty 5G locations and charing customers $10 a month for 5G service on top of their regular unlimited plans. (Verizon waives that fee for most unlimited subscribers at this time.)
Verizon has responded that its 5G network, like those of other carriers, remains a work in progress. Since launching 5G service in Chicago, for instance, Verizon says its doubled the among of 5G small cells to expand its network. New York will follow a similar rollout, with the number of small cells doubling by the end of 2019.
We plan to test Verizon's 5G service when it goes live this week to see just how extensive the network's coverage is at this early stage. We'll also compare Verizon's 5G performance in New York with Sprint and T-Mobile, which also offer 5G coverage in the U.S.'s largest city.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.