North country 5G: Some providers roll local connections out rapidly, others stalled

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The next generation of cellular service, 5G wireless, is active and rolling out across the U.S., but while some providers have launched wide 5G coverage in the north country, others have barely developed their networks at all.

Not all 5G service is the same. 5G offered through what is called the “low-band” is comparable to existing 4G networks, while 5G offered through the “mid and high bands” is much faster. Mid-band 5G is comparable to existing coaxial cable connections, while high-band 5G, also called mmWave, can provide up to 3 gigabytes per second of download speeds, fast enough to download a high-definition feature-length film in less than a minute.

The first telecommunications provider to offer 5G in the north country is T-Mobile, which merged with Sprint and absorbed its network to become one of the largest cell companies in the country.

Across most of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, T-Mobile has the widest 5G range in the region, with all but the most remote areas covered by its slower, low-band 5G service. The population centers of Watertown, Fort Drum, Carthage, Clayton, Alexandria Bay, Adams, Lowville, Croghan, Harrisville, Ogdensburg, Canton, Potsdam, Pierrepont, Massena and Malone all have access to 5G on the faster mid-range band.

A T-Mobile spokesperson said the first 5G antennas were turned on in Watertown last fall, so the company has offered at least the slower low-band service in the region for nearly a year. The company recently started advertising its faster mid- and high-band connections more aggressively in the north country, and last week began offering its 5G home internet service in the region, which requires at least mid-band connections.

“We are continuing to expand the network and do have plans to continue expanding 5G in Watertown, as well as in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties throughout this year and next,” the spokesperson said.

AT&T is a close second in the region for 5G coverage, offering low-band 5G wireless along the major population centers of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties and the highways connecting them. AT&T’s high-band service is only available in New York in the Bronx, and is in a very limited number of other cities nationwide.

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