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What is 5G Plus? Explaining AT&T’s Upgraded 5G Network

AT&T 5G+ logo against a light grey background

No doubt you’ve heard wireless carriers promote their 5G network coverage, but you might be wondering about 5G Plus, aka 5G+. As the name suggests, 5G Plus is a faster version of 5G. 

Each major provider has its own name for its upgraded or higher-band 5G. AT&T's higher level is called 5G Plus.

Verizon and T-Mobile’s upgraded versions are called 5G UW and 5G UC. With all the hoopla surrounding 5G, you might wonder if you need the upgraded version or if the standard will do. You might also want to know what you have to do to access the upgraded version. Navi is here with the answers (and cell phone plan deals) you’re looking for.

In this article, we’ll explain 5G and 5G Plus, how they work, and the differences between the various types of 5G upgrades offered by the three major networks, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

To find out if your current phone is 5G-enabled, check out our article titled Is My Phone 5G?, and if you’re in the market for a new 5G cell phone to take advantage of AT&T’s 5G Plus, our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder can help you find the best phone deal.

What is 5G?

5G, the fifth generation of wireless, was released to much fanfare because it uses a higher frequency than the previous generation, 4G LTE. To have access to 5G, you need a phone and plan that are able to take advantage of it.

What does 5G do? 5G promises faster speeds, easier streaming, improved download times, and less lag time. But the truth is that many people didn’t notice a huge difference between 4G and 5G.

Standard 5G covers a wider area and is faster than the previous generation, but the increase in speed isn’t that significant. Where 5G uses the lowest band, 5G Plus uses a combination of mid and high-frequency bands for enhanced speeds. If your 5G seems too slow consider switching carriers.

What Does 5G Plus Mean?

AT&T’s 5G network consists of two types of 5G. Regular 5G refers to the low-band spectrum, which offers the widest coverage but with slower speeds. 5G Plus, on the other hand, combines the mid-band (2.5 GHz to 3.5 GHz range) and high-band (millimeter wave or mmWave) spectrums, promising higher speeds where available. 

These higher frequencies allow for:

  • Increased data capacity: More data can travel simultaneously, reducing congestion and lag.
  • Faster speeds: Millimeter waves offer significantly faster download and upload speeds compared to low-band 5G.

Benefits of 5G Plus:

  • Faster downloads and uploads: Enjoy quicker loading times for web pages, games, and streaming services.
  • Improved responsiveness: Experience smoother performance with less lag in data-intensive applications.

Cons of 5G Plus:

  • Limited coverage: Mid-band has better coverage than high-band, but both have a shorter range than the low-band 5G. You'll likely find 5G Plus in densely populated areas, such as cities and suburbs.
  • Battery drain: Higher frequencies can consume battery life faster on your device.

5G Plus utilizes higher frequency bands to deliver significantly faster data speeds and improved user experience compared to regular 5G. However, it comes with limitations in coverage and may affect battery life. Many carriers use Non-standalone 5G, which means that your phone will use legacy 3G and 4G networks, as well as the 5G network. Being connected to more than one network can drain your battery faster. The distance between your phone and the nearest 5G tower can also drain your battery faster. 

How 5G Plus Works

If you have a phone plan with 5G access and a 5G-enabled device, you’ll have access to 5G Plus where it’s available. If you’re in the coverage area for those speeds, all the higher frequencies should be available to you, including 5G and 5G Plus.

The faster 5G Plus frequency uses the higher band technology, so your phone needs to be equipped to support the n77 C-Band or n77 3.45 GHz.

The mid-band spectrum is available in many places and is expanding constantly. The highest band is currently only available in high-traffic areas, like stadiums, airports, and major cities.

AT&T Cell Phone Plans With 5G

While AT&T’s 4GB capped plan does not include 5G access, all AT&T unlimited plans include 5G and 5G Plus access where available. Not sure which AT&T 5G phone plan best suits your needs? Our easy-to-understand plan guides can help: AT&T Value Plus VL | AT&T Unlimited Starter SL | AT&T Unlimited Extra EL |AT&T Unlimited Premium PL

5G Plus vs 5G UW vs 5G UC

Ok, so we’ve established that AT&T offers 5G Plus, a faster tier of service within its 5G network. However, it's important to note that Verizon and T-Mobile also have their own versions of high-speed 5G, and there are some technical differences to consider. While there isn't a massive difference in overall performance between the carriers right now,  coverage areas can vary.

Let's Break Down the Tech: High-Band vs Mid-Band

Traditional 4G LTE uses slower lanes, offering decent speeds but with a lot of traffic. 5G opens up new lanes, but there are different types:

  • High Band (5G Plus, 5G UW, 5G UC): These are the express lanes, offering the fastest data transfer speeds. However, the signal range is shorter, so coverage can be spotty, especially indoors. AT&T's 5G Plus, Verizon's 5G UW, and T-Mobile's 5G UC all offer the highest band but utilize mid-band 5G when the highest band is unavailable.
  • Mid Band (often included in base 5G plans): This is like a new, wider lane on the main highway. It provides a good balance between speed and coverage, reaching farther than the high band but not quite as speedy. Some carriers may include mid-band in their base 5G plans.

Pros & Cons: Speed vs Coverage

While all these terms (5G Plus, 5G UW, 5G UC) represent access to faster speeds, they differ in how they achieve it:

  • T-Mobile's 5G UC: T-Mobile currently boasts the widest coverage area due to its reliance on some mid-band frequencies alongside high-band. This translates to more consistent access to faster speeds in more places, but the speeds might not be the absolute fastest everywhere.
  • Verizon's 5G UW: Often delivers the absolute fastest speeds when you can connect to it, thanks to its focus on high-band frequencies. However, coverage might be limited in some areas, especially compared to T-Mobile's 5G UC.
  • AT&T's 5G Plus: Falls somewhere in the middle in terms of both speed and coverage compared to the other two.

Choosing Your Lane

The best choice for you depends on your needs and the provider’s coverage in your location. Speed may be a high priority, but coverage is even more important. After all, the highest speed will not matter if your connection is intermittent.

  • Need for speed: If you prioritize the absolute fastest speeds whenever possible and are willing to deal with potentially spotty coverage, Verizon's 5G UW might be ideal.
  • Consistent speeds: If consistent access to good speeds is more important, T-Mobile's 5G UC could be the better option due to its wider coverage.
  • Balance: AT&T's 5G Plus offers a balance, but it might not be the leader in either speed or coverage.

The Bottom Line

AT&T’s upgraded version, 5G Plus, is available to customers on any AT&T unlimited plan, providing they purchase a phone equipped to access the 5G Plus network. If you need to upgrade your phone or your plan, Navi can help. Check out our round-up of the best AT&T phone deals right now or try our free, unbiased Plan Finder below to find cell phone plan deals to meet your needs.   

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