Data Recovery Plans

T-Mobile 5G map update lets you check if your network is fast or lame

T-Mobile network map

T-Mobile’s network map now lets you tell the difference between slower long-range 5G and faster 5G that uses midrange radio spectrum.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

T-Mobile has updated its coverage map so you can now tell what type of 5G you can get — the kind that’s relatively fast or the kind that just covers a lot of territory. An updated T-Mobile US network coverage map offers a darker color for the faster 5G “ultra capacity” than for the 5G “extended range.”

The colors are useful if you’re trying to decide whether to switch to T-Mobile from Verizon, AT&T or another network — or if you’re trying to figure out why your fancy 5G T-Mobile network seems so poky.

You’ll still have to do a lot of zooming and panning to compare with the AT&T network coverage map and Verizon coverage map, though, especially if you care about getting a signal in more than one or two places. I also recommend checking out my colleague Eli Blumenthal’s helpful decoding of 5G marketing terms.

For T-Mobile, you shouldn’t expect any of the 5G speed hype to apply on map areas with long-range 5G coverage. That uses low frequency radio spectrum that’s better at traveling long distances and penetrating the walls of buildings. But T-Mobile got a lot of midrange spectrum with its acquisition of Sprint, and that’s an important way for T-Mo to stand out. The company this week boasted its midband “ultra capacity” service now reaches 165 million people in the United States.

T-Mobile didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. PCMag spotted the coverage map change this week.

T-Mobile’s rivals should become more competitive as they put new midband radio spectrum to work later this year. AT&T and Verizon bought rights to use it in the Federal Communications Commission auction of C-band airwaves.

Verizon and AT&T have their own terms to differentiate between fast shorter-range service and slower long-range service.

AT&T calls its relatively slow long-range coverage “5G” and its midrange and even higher frequency millimeter wave (mmWave) “5G Plus.” Verizon calls its low-range “5G nationwide” and its midrange and mmWave “ultra wideband.”

As long as we’re on the subject of decoding tech terms, don’t confuse Verizon’s ultra wideband with the entirely separate Ultra Wideband (UWB) standard for precise position tracking.