Ookla's New Interactive Map Is A Helpful Tool For Understanding 5G Coverage

Screenshot: Ookla

As we continue to wade through the early days of 5G, there are a lot of issues to contend with. There aren’t a lot of 5G-ready devices, and some of the handsets that are available like the Galaxy S10 5G are ridiculously expensive. Heck, only two of the U.S.’s four big carriers have even flipped the switch on their commercial 5G networks.

But the biggest problem with 5G, by far, is trying to figure out which cities and locales have 5G coverage. Thankfully, the folks over at Ookla, makers of the handy Speedtest app, have just recently rolled out an interactive map aimed at tracking new 5G networks and deployments across the globe.

This should be a handy resource for helping people decide when it’s right to finally make the upgrade to 5G because if there’s no coverage in your area, there really isn’t a point. And by taking a quick look at the 5G coverage in the U.S. right now, it’s clear just how spotty nationwide 5G coverage really is.

By zooming in on the map and clicking a city, you can even see which specific carrier has 5G coverage in a particular location. If you zoom in on Australia you can see the first of the dots in the major cities around the country (like Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne) and the carriers supporting that area. And as more 5G networks go live, Ookla says it will continue to add new data points to its map, along with info showing potential data speeds and more.

However, the one tricky thing that Ookla’s map doesn’t show is a more granular look at 5G within specific cities or neighbourhoods. This is an understandable omission, as including that kind of data would essentially force Ookla to try to map every street in the world, not a simple task.

But as I found out while testing out Verizon’s 5G network in Chicago, 5G networks—specifically those based on mmWave frequencies — are quite finicky and often can only carry a 5G signal one or two blocks away from the 5G installation.

That means even though Ookla’s map says cities like Melbourne and Sydney are covered, in actuality, that 5G coverage doesn’t blanket the entire city, but only certain neighbourhoods or streets.

But as carriers continue to deploy 5G equipment (especially as things ramp up towards the end of the year and into 2020) the promise of 5G won’t be as much of a hard sell as it is right now. And when that happens, you’ll probably want to check Ookla’s map to see if your town is covered.

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