Verizon Claims 31 Cities with 5G: The Reality Is Verizon has “0” Cities.

Bruce Kushnick
11 min readJan 6, 2020
Verizon 5G Deployment East Harlem map excerpt

What does it mean when Verizon or AT&T claim that they are ‘in a city’ and offering 5G wireless service? Not much. This excerpt of Verizon’s New York City 5G deployment map shows that if you are on a boat in the Harlem River you’ll have great coverage, yet you can’t take a stroll down the streets of East Harlem and have a continuous connection.

America is being told that 5G is here. Yet, based on the maps presented by Verizon of their 5G deployment, it is obvious that Verizon’s claims of being in 31 cities is really nothing more than a scattering of PR show places that don’t even cover a neighborhood, even if you were to spend over $1000+ for a 5G compatible phone.

5G is more of a con than America’s broadband and internet solution. As we will detail in the next few articles, it would appear that the wave of 5G announcements are just hype being used to fool investors, to fool the public, hoodwink the naïve press, and to shape public policies for the advantage of AT&T and Verizon, the two largest wireless carriers that also control the majority of the US wired infrastructure. In the end, this is not about delivering quality high speed services throughout a city or a state, but to be able to get rid of the remaining regulations and obligations on the wireline and wireless networks, with the help of the captured FCC, so that they can charge us more for less, on all services.

Are these 5G Maps Real or Some Creative Use of Coloring with Crayons?

Let’s take a walk. The above graphic is an excerpt of the Verizon New York City map showing 5G coverage in East Harlem, New York as of January 1st, 2020. The big red blotch on the right shows that the best coverage (which looks like it was done with a crayon as an addition) covers the Harlem River, the part of the waterway that surrounds Manhattan island. As you scan the map you can see some dark red lines of 5G coverage that go for 1–2 blocks and then stops. So, if you stroll down Lenox Ave, there’s a 5G signal for a few blocks, then it stops and nothing for 2 blocks, then 1 block with service at the corner, then nothing, then… (We must note that Google maps shows that “Lenox” Avenue was renamed “Malcolm X Blvd”. while Seventh Ave. was renamed “Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd” in 1974.)

Unfortunately, the Verizon web-page set-up blocks seeing the entire map of NYC or even Manhattan all at once, but almost all of NYC appears to have this same lack of coverage.

Verizon states: “Service and Coverage Area Details”

“In New York City, you will be able to initially access Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband mobility service in parts of the below areas in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and around several landmarks throughout the city.”

  • “Manhattan: Midtown, Financial District, Harlem, East Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen and Washington Heights.
  • Brooklyn: Downtown Brooklyn
  • The Bronx: Pelham Bay, Fordham Heights, and Hunt’s Point
  • Around Landmarks: Bryant Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Madison Square Garden, Trinity Park (Brooklyn), the Lincoln Tunnel (Manhattan Entrance), Javits Center on 11th Ave between 36th and 37th, and the Theatre District on Broadway between 49th and 52nd.”

In checking out other maps in other cities, it appears that Verizon doesn’t have any ‘cities’ covered; no one can get a service that even covers a full neighborhood, much less traveling in just Manhattan, NYC.

While there have been some stories about holes in deployments, it would seem that the press just wants to repeat Verizon’s miraculous PR claim that it has achieved some made up goal to have 5G deployment in 31 cities at the end of 2019. The media should be addressing the fundamental issue — how can you say you are in a city when you don’t have basic coverage of most of the city?

Some Headlines:

Media Post:

“Verizon 5G Now Hooked Up In 31 Cities. Rally! Verizon wireless promised it would begin 5G Ultra Wideband Service in 30 cities by the end of 2019.

Light Reading

Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband mobility service is available in 31 US cities with seven 5G-enabled devices.

Cord Cutter News

  • Verizon Now Offers 5G Internet in 31 Cities

I note that almost all of the Verizon media properties, such as Yahoo or Engadget, have had a continuous stream of pro-5G-Verizon-wireless stories, including carrying reports from different sources (that also fit the storyline).

Yahoo Finance carried this Zack Equity Finance story:

“VZ stated that its 5G Ultra Wideband mobility service is available in select locations in Cleveland and Columbus, OH, and Hampton Roads, VA. Increasing the tally, the telecom bellwether has turned on its much-acclaimed service in 31 cities, 15 NFL stadiums and four indoor arenas.”

Some stories with a bit more scrutiny covering the 5G deployments are just funny. Venturebeat noted that Verizon was putting 5G in football stadiums as a big 5G selling point, with one stadium making it available “in part of the lower seating areas”.

“Verizon’s 5G rollout has been somewhat quixotic throughout 2019, with the carrier rolling out the fastest version of 5G in relatively few and sometimes unusual locations, a strategy it branded ‘5G Built Right.’ In addition to covering some streets in major cities, Verizon installed 5G in parts of select NFL stadiums, offering high-speed cellular service to users in certain seats and lending devices to demonstrate 5G-powered AR and its 2Gbps peak network speeds. The company says Progressive Field is the 15th NFL stadium with 5G service, though coverage is only available ‘in part of the lower seating area’.”

Disturbing Items that Question Verizon’s Motives

First, Verizon has decided that it will not stand by what it presented in the 5G coverage maps and it has this disclaimer that shows just how disingenuous these city deployments and their graphic representations really are. With lines like “not a guarantee of coverage” and “contain areas of no service”, it renders the maps useless.

Maybe that is why parts of the maps appear to have ‘creative’ coverage, like the Harlem River. Did someone just take out a crayon and decide to color in some areas?

More importantly, these maps show that the coverage isn’t just spotty, it’s virtually non-existent. If you actually purchased a phone and started walking down the streets making a call or watching a video, you would continuously lose a signal.

Where is the standard of what it means to be ‘in a city’?

Verizon was actually taken to task over this lack of coverage by the NAD, (which is “an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB NP’s self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs”).

In a decision on December 13th, 2019, the NAD recommended that Verizon modify its advertising to explain to consumers when the services are “more unavailable” than “available”.

“Further, consumers are not likely to understand the location limitations on Verizon’s 5G network when they see Verizon’s advertising that it now offers 5G, notwithstanding the disclosure at the end of each commercial which states, ‘5G Ultra Wideband available only in parts of select cities…’ NAD noted that it is undisputed that Verizon’s 5G service is available in certain neighborhoods of some cities but that even in cities where it is available, its availability is limited.”

“Therefore, NAD recommended that Verizon modify its advertising to disclose that its 5G service is more unavailable than available. The disclosure should be made with prominence and clarity close to the main claim, disclosed visually if the claim is made visually, and orally if the claim is made orally.” (Emphasis added)

(Ironically, NAD deals with cases that are usually company to company and their decisions are more recommendations as the NAD helps the industries to ‘self-regulate’; in this case, this Verizon challenge was taken by AT&T. Of course, AT&T never mentioned anything about the mapping.)

While Verizon said “it will comply with the NAD’s decision”, there was nothing in what we found that explains that the services are more unavailable than available. And while self-regulation is a step in the right direction, as competitors keeping each other honest is better than not, it does not solve this problem, which is industrywide, much less deal with the deeper issues of this 5G con. For example, AT&T just decided 5G is really a ‘marketing’ label and has nothing to do with the super-high-speeds that are being touted in the press.

AT&T’s New York map shows a redefining of 5G, which should now be called — “We were just kidding about 5G”.

To round out this tale, it turns out that AT&T has also published its 5G deployment of New York City and surrounding areas which are to go live in February, 2020. It should be obvious that AT&T’s idea of 5G is to simply slap on a marketing label to the previous wireless services and call it 5G as this map shows full coverage of the entire NYC area.

The Verge explained that AT&T has different flavors of 5G.

  • “AT&T claims it has two kinds of 5G already, but this third one is the real deal, sort of.”
  • “You might have seen a 5GE icon on your phone — that’s actually just LTE.
  • You may have also heard about mmWave 5G, which is what AT&T calls 5G+. mmWave 5G offers lightning-fast speeds, but extremely limited coverage (see: Verizon’s mmWave 5G coverage maps). AT&T’s 5G+ is no exception, as it only works over A) a 5G hotspot that is only available to business customers or B) a mmWave-compatible Galaxy S10 5G that’s not available to consumers, and C) is only available in ‘parts of” 21 cities.
  • The maps (excerpt above) represents AT&T’s consumer rollout of regular, “low-band” 5G, which will have speeds that are ‘expected to be comparable’ to LTE-Advanced, which is already just a speedier 4G.”

This map, then, calls into question even more variables of the definition of the term “5G”. Here, AT&T claims it is rolling out 5G, when this is nothing more than another PR stunt for rebranding a product that already exists.

5G, the Mapping of Broadband, and Deceptive Practices

What should happen next is simple — these games need to be stopped.

There should be penalties and fines for deceptive mapping and there must be city and state audits to check what is being presented. Moreover, the penalties need to be large enough to stop the practices (and the monies collected to be used to do continued enforcement).

And this should be done with all broadband data, including the horrendous maps that have been promulgated with the help of the FCC. In December, 2019, for example, the US House of Representatives even passed a recent bill to fix the FCC’s broadband data, but there are no penalties or an audit and enforcement mechanism to make sure there is compliance.

And there appears to be a very high level of corruption. The FCC’s “Mobility Fund Phase II coverage maps investigation”, released December 4th, 2019, showed major discrepancies in wireless broadband speeds from Verizon and others as compared to the actual coverage maps that were used to document the government subsidies they received. In this case, the companies certified that they would be delivering “4G LTE” with a “download speed of at least 5 Mbps” to receive these subsidies.

“Through the investigation, staff discovered that the MF-II coverage maps submitted by Verizon, U.S. Cellular, and T-Mobile likely overstated each provider’s actual coverage and did not reflect on-the-ground performance in many instances. Only 62.3% of staff drive tests achieved at least the minimum download speed predicted by the coverage maps — with U.S. Cellular achieving that speed in only 45.0% of such tests, T-Mobile in 63.2% of tests, and Verizon in 64.3% of tests. Similarly, staff stationary tests showed that each provider achieved sufficient download speeds meeting the minimum cell edge probability in fewer than half of all test locations (20 of 42 locations).”

The Commission even acknowledged the importance of accurate data because it is giving out billions in government subsidies.

“The Commission and the public must be able to rely on the deployment data that providers submit to the Commission. Inaccurate data jeopardize the ability of the Commission to focus our limited universal service funds on the unserved areas that need the most support.”

This is essentially fraud. The companies signed agreements that they would be able to deliver at least 4G LTE download speeds at a measly 5Mbps in rural areas and supplied maps of that deployment to fulfill their obligations for the government funds.

NOTE: You are being charged extra for this: This government subsidy is from the Universal Service Fund, (USF) which is a tax of a whopping 21%-25% on parts of your communications bills.

It is time to put in place a standard for what constitutes being ‘in a city’ or state.

Creating a list of cities that are really not fully covered, or using a bait-and-switch with a marketing label, is deceptive to investors, to the cities that are supposedly going to be served, but more importantly this is all being done to manipulate public opinion and public policies. We need to set up standards and clean up this mess now.

As we will discuss in the next series of articles, the mapping of broadband and the 5G deployment issues are just the tip of a very dark iceberg.

Fixing Telecom: On January 17th, 2020, IRREGULATORS v FCC moves forward with oral arguments in the DC Court of Appeals. This legal challenge exposes one of the largest accounting scandals in American history. AT&T et al. were able to manipulate the accounting formulas to make their wired networks appear unprofitable and to have the state-based utility networks subsidize the wireless deployments; i.e., the wired customers have been paying extra through cross-subsidies to fund the wireless networks. Billions per state were diverted that should have used to upgrade cities and states to a true fiber optic future, not this 5G spectacle.

I leave you with this part of the con: The companies captured the FCC so that the agency makes outrageous false claims but uses them to create major government subsidies (to give to companies that failed to properly upgrade their cities and states) with the claim that 5G will solve the Digital Divide at speeds 100 times faster than what we have today.

On December 4th, 2019, the FCC announced a “Plan to Launch $9 Billion 5G Fund for Rural America

“5G has the potential to bring many benefits to American consumers and businesses, including wireless networks that are more responsive, more secure, and up to 100 times faster than today’s 4G LTE networks… We want to make sure that rural Americans enjoy these benefits, just as residents of large urban areas will.”

Part II focuses on the wireless profits of AT&T, the outrageous costs of wireless service in the US as compared to Vodafone in the UK as well as other countries overseas, and it appears that the wireless profits are artificial and are being cross-subsidized by the wireline networks.



Bruce Kushnick

New Networks Institute,Executive Director, & Founding Member, IRREGULATORS; Telecom analyst for 40 years, and I have been playing the piano for 65 years.