Need for speed? New maps show where you can find 5G in the Treasure Valley

Sharon Fisher//November 22, 2019

Need for speed? New maps show where you can find 5G in the Treasure Valley

Sharon Fisher//November 22, 2019

map of downtown boise 5g service
Here’s where you can find 5G cell phone service in the downtown Boise area. Map courtesy of Verizon

Verizon has released maps of its 5G coverage in Idaho showing exactly where in Boise and Meridian people can expect to get the high-speed wireless service.

The company made the service available in the Treasure Valley on Sept. 26 after installing the small but ubiquitous 5G transmitters in various downtown Boise locations for several months. However, it hadn’t even included Boise on its list of planned sites.

Previously, Verizon had said only that 5G service would be available in parts of Downtown Boise, West Boise, the West End, Meridian, Boise Junction around such landmarks as the Idaho State Capitol, St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center, Fort Boise Park, Capital City Event Center and Boise Town Square. The new maps add more nuance to those descriptions.

In downtown Boise, service is available as far east as Broadway, including large areas of the downtown parks – though not including Bronco Stadium – and generally as far north as Washington Street. It is also available in the Boise Bench around Saint Alphonsus Hospital and points east and in the shopping areas of West Boise, though not in the buildings themselves.

In Meridian, service is available along Pine as far west as 3rd Street and as far east as Eagle Road, including downtown. There is also coverage on Franklin Road, including Storey Park, and Fairview Ave. between Locust Grove and Eagle Road.

A Verizon spokesman had said when the service was announced that more coverage areas could be added over time.

What is 5G?

5G is the next generation of wireless data, which has higher speed and less delay than existing 4G.

Unlike today’s 4G cellphone service, which features a tall tower every couple of miles, 5G uses smaller transmitters at much shorter wavelengths. That’s what makes it so wicked fast. That also means the signal is more fragile, necessitating many more transmitters. Because of the transmitter density required, it is likely that high-speed 5G service will be available primarily in metropolitan areas.

Due to 5G’s short wavelength, service can be interrupted by something as minor as a leaf, and people shouldn’t expect to be able to receive it in buildings. When 5G isn’t available, it automatically defaults to the previous 4G service. In many cases, other than parks, the service is indicated on the new maps as available only in the street itself. People away from the street shouldn’t count on being able to gain access to 5G service.

photo of 5G service
When you can pick it up, 5G is wicked fast. Photo courtesy of Paul Ulreich of Verizon

When it’s available, typical download speeds are 450-700 megabits per second (Mbps), with bursts faster than 1 gigabit per second, meaning a Netflix episode, or even a full movie can be downloaded in less than 10 seconds, according to Verizon. In comparison, download 4G speeds in the Treasure Valley can be less than 100 Mbps.

In addition, taking advantage of 5G features requires that you have one of the scant handful of high-end cellphones that support 5G transmission, which start at around $1,000.

There has been some concern about the health effects of 5G because of the high frequency of the transmission and ubiquity of the transmitters. According to a webpage on the subject from the CTIA – which is, admittedly, a trade association representing the wireless communications industry in the United States – the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health haven’t found any indication that 5G service increases cancer risk in humans. It is comparable to Bluetooth devices and baby monitors, according to the CTIA.

5G service became available in Boise and Meridian at the same time as New York and Panama City, Florida, where the company invested $25 million to help the city recover from Hurricane Michael. With the new cities, Verizon’s 5G service – dubbed Ultra Wideband – is available in 13 cities, with 30 expected by the end of the year.