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Guide to 5G spectrum bands

Robin Layton

Sep 27, 2022 — 3 min read

We help you decipher the difference between frequencies and how your ISP uses them.

Person using phone while working on the laptop

To understand what spectrum bands are and how they work with 5G, we first need to understand 5G. The term “5G’ is tossed around a lot and is nearly synonymous with speed in the internet world. But what exactly is it? 5G is the 5th generation mobile network – think 2G, 3G and 4G. It is, according to Qualcomm, “meant to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users.”

Spectrum bands and 5G

In order to deliver those peak speeds with low latency, 5G uses spectrum, which are the radio frequencies that carry signals from an area tower to your home or device.

Spectrum bands come in low, medium and high frequencies. The federal government auctions off rights to transmit signals over these specific bands to internet and cellular providers. In fact, in early September 2022 Ars Technica reported that T-Mobile just spent “$304 million to win over 90% of available 2.5 GHz licenses” in the latest spectrum auction.

Where you live can determine which 5G provider is available to you, but also which band they use to give you service.

For example, low-bands are good for rural areas because the signal travels over several hundred square miles and can pass through buildings and other obstacles. Mid-band frequencies are good for metro-suburban areas and can travel large distances as well, but the speeds are a bit lower. High-band, known as mmWaves, deliver ultra-high speeds in smaller areas, like an urban downtown scene, concert venue or stadium.

What is mmWave?

Millimeter wave is a band of spectrum between 30 and 300 GHz, according to TechTarget.com, that can be used for high-speed, point-to-point wireless local area networks and broadband access. Coupling 5G with mmWave “provides massive capacity and even lower latency to unlock the full 5G experience,” says Qualcomm.

5G spectrum band frequencies

Low-band (<2 GHz)

  • Widest coverage of the bands
  • A limited bandwidth
  • Good for rural areas

Mid-band (2 GHz to 6 GHz)

  • More bandwidth than the low-band
  • Provides coverage similar to 4G service

High-band (>6 GHz)

  • Includes millimeter Wave, called mmWave
  • High and fast capability
  • mmWaves can only travel short distances
  • Cannot go through buildings
  • Good for gathering places like airports, stadiums, etc. 

Major 5G providers

T-Mobile leads the charge in providing fast 5G service, with Verizon and AT&T close behind. Testing site Ookla reports that during Q2 2022, T-Mobile had the fastest median 5G download speed in the U.S. at 187.33 Mbps, with Verizon in second with 113.52 Mbps, followed by AT&T with 71.54 Mbps.

They all offer the familiar 5G cell phone plans, with T-Mobile and Verizon offering 5G home internet plans. AT&T has not yet released a home version of their 5G service.

5G in your home works much like your mobile devices. Your modem and router do work a bit differently, though, then your traditional cable or fiber hookup operates. Your equipment reaches out to the nearest 5G cell tower and converts the signal into Wi-Fi for you to use inside your home.

T-Mobile’s 5G Home Internet

The company says over 40 million households across the country are eligible for their 5G home internet service, which uses 600 MHz for low-band, as well as a mid-band range and mmWave for high traffic downtown spots. The service starts at $50/mo. with autopay. The easiest way to see if you are in a serviceable area is to check here.

What we like

  • No data caps

  • Free equipment provided

Things to consider

  • Fixed wireless internet, so it’s location-dependent

  • Speeds vary widely depending on location

  • Can’t use Hulu + Live TV

Verizon 5G Home Internet

Verizon 5G Home Internet offers faster speeds than T-Mobile’s plan, but so far, it only services about 900 cities across the nation. Verizon uses their 5G Ultra Wideband, which is a combo of high- and mid-band spectrum. The service starts at $25/mo. with autopay and a select mobile plan.

What we like

  • No contracts or data caps

  • Inexpensive way to get home internet; plan starts at $25/mo. with auto pay and a mobile plan.

  • Wi-Fi 6 router included

Things to consider

  • Limited availability: Verizon 5G Home is in about 900 cities


AT&T’s 5G mobile service uses the mid-band frequency to reach 277 million people in 18,000 U.S. cities. The company recently introduced 5G+ which uses high-band (mmWave) for fast connections in large venues like airports, stadiums and more.

What we like

  • Affordable with plans starting at $35/mo. with multiple lines

  • Unlimited data

  • Promotions – AT&T is known for adding perks like free streaming services or gift cards to deals

Things to consider

  • No 5G home internet service available

The bottom line

As the Federal Communications Commission releases more frequencies for auction, look to the top providers to continue expanding their availability. If speed and lower latency are what you’re looking for, 5G service is it. You have options if you want 5G home internet, but with your home internet or mobile service, something to keep in mind is that to benefit from all the 5G perks, you need to start with 5G-capable devices.

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Robin Layton

Written by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Robin Layton is an editor for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. She built her internet industry expertise writing and editing for four years on the site, as well as on Allconnect’s sister site MYMOVE.com. … Read more

Camryn Smith

Edited by:

Camryn Smith

Associate Writer

Read bio