5G has arrived at all three major US airlines. Here are the plans you will need to use it.

Angela Lang / CNET

As the fall phone season begins, 5G is expected to play an important role for network operators and device manufacturers looking to upgrade. With low-band 5G services now being rolled out nationwide by T-Mobile and AT&T, and Verizon promising its own nationwide low-band 5G network this year, 2020 will be the first time ever three network operators have next-generation networks.

Getting started with 5G, however, requires more than just a compatible phone. Some airlines require you to have the right plan too.

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Before you upgrade, here are some things you should know about getting 5G on any of the top three US carriers.

The flavors of 5G

With 5G, there are three major types of wireless radio waves to know: low-band, mid-band, and millimeter wave.

Low-band 5G provides the best coverage and is the foundation for 5G, although speeds are often not much better than a good 4G LTE signal.

Millimeter Wave is a higher-frequency version of 5G and offers speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. The problem with the millimeter wave, however, is the range. It's often only available in certain blocks of certain cities, doesn't work indoors, and can be obstructed by leaves, glass, and even a hand between your phone and the transmitter.

Midband, as the name suggests, is the middle ground between the two. It offers much faster speed than low-band while offering much better coverage than millimeter waves, including the ability to work indoors.

Most of this is currently only available on T-Mobile thanks to the Sprint merger. AT&T and Verizon are expected to add midband 5G in the future. Both are expected to be active bidders in a Federal Communications Commission auction for more of this valuable spectrum.

Continue reading: How to choose the right 5G provider for you

AT & T.

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AT&T is offering 5G on its latest unlimited plans.

Angela Lang / CNET

To use 5G at AT&T you need to make sure you are turned on one of the airline's newest unlimited plans known as Unlimited Starter, Unlimited Extra, and Unlimited Elite. All contain unlimited calls, texts and data in the US, Mexico and Canada.

For four lines, the starter price starts at $ 140 per month ($ 35 per line) but doesn't include a mobile hotspot and data can be slowed down if the network is congested.

The next step, Extra, is $ 160 per month ($ 40 per line). This plan includes 50GB of high-speed data per line per month before it slows down and adds 15GB of high-speed data per line to use your phone as a mobile hotspot. (After 15 GB, speeds drop to a painfully slow 2G-like 128 kilobits per second.)

The top Elite plan costs $ 200 per month for four lines ($ 50 per line). It offers free HBO Max, allows you to stream video in HD, 100GB of data before slowing down, and 30GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data for each line (after that, it slows down to that 2G level).

AT & T's plans provide access to the nationwide low-band 5G network as well as the faster, higher-frequency millimeter-wave network (known as "5G Plus") currently available in parts of 35 cities across the country is. The low-band network currently includes over 205 million people.

If you have an older plan, even one that is unlimited, you are limited to 4G LTE even if you have a 5G device. Oh, and because things are never easy, AT&T calls its 4G LTE network "5G E." Don't be confused: when you see 5G E, you know it's not real 5G.

AT&T 5G

To plan

5G included?

Price (1 line)

Price (4 lines)

Hotspot

Perks

Unlimited starter

Yes

$ 65

$ 140

N / A

Unlimited in Mexico and Canada

Unlimited extra

Yes

$ 75

$ 160

15 GB per month per line

50 GB of high-speed data per line, unlimited in Mexico and Canada

Unlimited elite

Yes

$ 85

$ 200

30 GB per month per line

100 GB high-speed data per line, free HBO Max, unlimited in Mexico and Canada

T-Mobile

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T-Mobile offers 5G for all plans, including older and sprint plans.

Angela Lang / CNET

When it comes to 5G, T-Mobile's story is a lot simpler. Any plan, including Sprint users, can connect to 5G if they have a 5G device. This includes both unlimited and older plans with monthly data quotas.

Of the current plans from T-Mobile, the cheapest Essentials plan is used in a recent promotion up to $ 100 per month for four lines ($ 25 per line). You get unlimited calls, text and data, but the mobile hotspot is limited to "maximum 3G speeds" (which in the past still meant a weak 512 kbps).

Unlike some other T-Mobile plans, taxes and fees aren't included here, and you don't get perks like free Netflix, international data outside of Mexico and Canada, or HD streaming. This deal also requires at least four lines but no more than six.

The regular Essentials plan, which is practically the same, is a little more expensive at $ 120 a month for four lines ($ 30 a month), but this version of Essentials doesn't require four to six lines.

There are also two top-up plans known as Magenta and Magenta Plus. The former, which currently costs $ 140 per month for four lines ($ 35 per line), includes taxes and fees in the monthly price, 3 GB of 4G LTE hotspot data for each line, and a free subscription to Netflix Basic ( Netflix & # 39; cheapest tariff that doesn't stream videos in HD) or Quibi and international data in over 210 countries.

T-Mobile's premium Magenta Plus plan costs $ 170 per month for four lines ($ 43 per line), with taxes and fees factored in the price. Further advantages are the standard Netflix plan with HD streaming or free Quibi, 20 GB 4G LTE hotspot data per line and slightly faster international data. You can also stream HD video over a cellular connection.

When it comes to next generation networks, T-Mobile is actually the furthest in the US. It was the first to join a nationwide 5G network over the low-band spectrum last December recently expanded to 250 million people.

After acquiring the 2.5 GHz mid-band spectrum from Sprint upon completion of the merger this year, the network operator began delivering mid-band 5G nationwide. Thousands of locations are to be upgraded this year.

The wearer also has millimeter wave 5G, although it hasn't expanded that flavor beyond that yet six cities launched it in 2019.

T-Mobile 5G

To plan

5G included?

Price (1 line)

Price (4 lines)

Hotspot

Perks

Essentials (Promo)

Yes

N / A

$ 100

Unlimited at "3G speeds"

Conversation, text and 2G data in Canada and Mexico; unlimited SMS overseas.

Essentials (regular)

Yes

$ 60

$ 120

Unlimited at "3G speeds"

Conversation, text and 2G data in Canada and Mexico; unlimited SMS overseas.

magenta

Yes

$ 70

$ 140

3 GB high-speed data per month per line, then unlimited at "maximum 3G speeds"

Taxes and fees included; free Netflix Basic or Quibi subscription (at least two lines); contain international calls, text and dates; 5 GB high-speed data in Mexico and Canada,

Magenta Plus

Yes

$ 85

$ 170

20 GB of high-speed data per month, per line and then unlimited at "maximum 3G speeds"

Taxes and fees included; free Netflix Standard or Quibi subscription (at least two lines); international conversations, texts and data that are in data twice as fast as magenta; HD streaming over cellular networks; 5 GB high-speed data in Mexico and Canada.

Verizon

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Verizon's full 5G availability only applies to some of the top unlimited deals.

Angela Lang / CNET

While AT&T only limits 5G to its latest unlimited plans, and T-Mobile lets any plan access 5G, Verizon ranks somewhere in the middle when it comes to plans.

The company recently announced that every plan will do this be able to use its nationwide low-band 5G network when it starts later this year. This includes older unlimited plans and those with monthly data quotas.

However, those who want the full Verizon 5G experience with millimeter waves need to have one of the provider's top unlimited deals known as Do More, Get More or Play More.

The good news is that Verizon lets you choose which plan each individual line is on (what is known as a "mix and match") instead of requiring everyone to be on the same plan. To keep pricing simple, we'll look at cost as if each line were the same plan.

The starting plan offers four lines for $ 140. While it has low-band 5G, it lacks access to the millimeter-wave network. It also doesn't offer a mobile hotspot and data in Canada and Mexico are limited to "2G speeds".

The "Play More" step-up plan would cost $ 180 for four lines. This plan includes both Verizon 5G variants and: 50GB of 4G high-speed LTE data; 15 GB for each row of 4G LTE data for mobile hotspot, HD streaming over a cellular connection and a free subscription to the Disney Bundle, which includes Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu.

The plan also includes unlimited calls, texts, and data in Canada and Mexico, though the data here is all limited to "2G speeds".

The Do More tariff is $ 180 for four lines. The big difference is that the Disney bundle is being dropped for a 50% discount on the monthly service fee for an attached hotspot, tablet or smartwatch.

The Get More is a combination of Play More and Do More. Four lines cost $ 220 per month. It has all of the perks of both plans – including the connected device discount and the Disney Bundle – but increases 4G LTE hotspot data to 30GB per month per line. It also offers a free subscription to Apple Music.

The operator's older Top Unlimited tariffs – known as Above Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited – also include access to the low-band 5G and millimeter-wave 5G networks.

Verizon 5G

To plan

5G included?

Price (1 line)

Price (4 lines)

Hotspot

Perks

Start indefinitely

Yes, but only in the low band

$ 70

$ 140

N / A

Talk, text and data at 2G speeds in Mexico and Canada

Play More Unlimited

Yes

$ 80

$ 180

15 GB high-speed data per line per month, then unlimited at slower speeds

Access to a faster millimeter wave 5G network; 50 GB of data per line per month with 4G LTE high-speed data; HD video streaming; Calls, texts and data at 2G speeds in Mexico and Canada; Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN Plus included.

Do more indefinitely

Yes

$ 80

$ 180

15 GB of 4G LTE high-speed data per line per month, then unlimited at slower speeds

Access to a faster millimeter wave 5G network; 50 GB of data per line per month with 4G LTE high-speed data; HD video streaming; Calls, texts and data at 2G speeds in Mexico and Canada; 50% discount on the monthly service fee for a connected smartwatch, tablet or hotspot.

Get more unlimited

Yes

$ 90

$ 220

30 GB of high-speed data per line per month, then unlimited at slower speeds

Access to a faster millimeter wave 5G network; 50 GB per line per month with 4G LTE high-speed data; HD video streaming; Calls, texts and data at 2G speeds in Mexico and Canada; 50% discount on the monthly service fee for connected tablet / hotspot / smartwatch; free subscription to Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN Plus; free subscription to Apple Music

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