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5G on a OnePlus Nord N200 T-Mobile
5G on a OnePlus Nord N200 T-Mobile (Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

The majority of the population in the U.S. now has 5G coverage from at least one carrier, so it's time to think about getting one of the best 5G cell phone plans with your new phone. T-Mobile has a commanding lead in coverage, with AT&T and Verizon struggling to get off the start line with C-band deployment, so for now, it's the best network to try out 5G. Still, all carriers have some level of 5G coverage and, in some areas, may even come out ahead of T-Mobile. Overall, the best plan for 5G is T-Mobile's Magenta plan with unlimited premium data, Netflix, and great family savings.

T-Mobile 5G network on the OnePlus 7T Pro

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Best overall: T-Mobile Magenta

T-Mobile Magenta

A dense 5G network and all you need is a 5G phone

Reasons to buy

+
All plans get 5G
+
low-band, mid-band, and mmWave on one network
+
Netflix included is with multiple lines
+
5GB in Canada and Mexico
+
Unlimited 3G speed hotspot

Reasons to avoid

-
SD streaming
-
Only 5GB of high-speed hotspot data

T-Mobile offers 5G on all of its plans, so if you upgrade to a 5G capable device, you can get connected with no hassle. T-Mobile's 5G network not only has the best coverage, but its use of mid-band spectrum has also made it one of the fastest overall. Best of all, this mid-band spectrum covers more than 200 million people, and it's still growing. With that in mind, the Magenta plan is one of the best values on T-Mobile thanks to its unlimited data with deprioritization at 100GB and Netflix included.

This plan only includes 5GB of LTE hotspot, so it may be worth it to step up to the Magenta Max plan for $15 more if you use a lot of data on your other devices. Similarly, you can drop down to the Essentials plan if you only need the basics. This makes T-Mobile one of the easiest ways to try out 5G without going for the most expensive plan. If you're bringing the family, you can get your third line for free.

Mint Mobile Unliminted

Source: Android Central / Samuel Contreras (Image credit: Source: Android Central / Samuel Contreras)

Best value: Mint Mobile 4GB

Mint Mobile 4GB

T-Mobile 5G for a discount

Reasons to buy

+
Save by buying more months
+
Easily upgrade to a large data package
+
Most unlocked 5G phones will work
+
Data can be used as a hotspot

Reasons to avoid

-
Must buy at least 3 months
-
No multi-line savings

Mint Mobile has larger plans than its entry-level 4GB plan, including an unlimited plan, but a lot of people don't need that much data. Even so, if you find you need more data than you signed up for with Mint, you can upgrade mid-cycle to the 10GB, 15GB, or unlimited plan. This is a great thing because you need to buy at least three months of service upfront. Mint Mobile is available in three-month, six-month, and 12-month terms with greater savings when you buy the whole year. The 4GB plan, for example, comes down to just $15 per month for 12 months.

Mint Mobile uses T- Mobile's network, including 5G, so for the best results, you should have a 5G phone that supports both band 71 and band 41. You can try out your first three months at a discounted rate, so you don't have to commit to the full year at first.

Remember that Mint Mobile does not offer any savings for multiple lines, so if you want to get the whole family connected, there are better options.

Visible SIM card Galaxy S20+

Source: Samuel Contreras / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

Best value for streamers: Visible

Visible

Cheap and unlimited with Verizon 5G

Reasons to buy

+
Unlimited data, calls, and texts
+
Party Pay savings
+
Unlimited 5Mbps hotspot
+
No hidden data cap

Reasons to avoid

-
Video streams at 480p
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No 3G support
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Only a handful of supported 5G phones

Visible is a prepaid carrier operating exclusively on Verizon's digital network. This means that Visible only uses LTE or 5G and will have no access to the older 3G and analog towers. Still, for most people, the Verizon LTE network offers excellent coverage, speed, and the addition of 5G only sweetens the deal. This is also the full Verizon 5G network, including mmWave Ultra Wideband, though your download speeds will be capped to 200Mbps. This is fast enough for anything you need to do on your phone and shouldn't be a concern to most people.

Visible's plan is truly unlimited, with no hidden data caps reducing your speed. Visible traffic is a lower priority than Verizon traffic, so you may see your speeds decrease if you're in a busy area. Still, overall, the experience will be comparable as we found in our review. If you use more than 50GB of data in a month, your prioritization may be further decreased though if there's enough capacity, you won't hit a hard speed cap. Keep in mind that Visible supports fewer phone models than T-Mobile, with only a handful working with 5G. However, this includes the most popular 5G devices like iPhone 12 and 13, the Galaxy S20/S21 series, and 5G Pixel phones.

One of the biggest draws to Visible is its price, and at $40 per month, it's a great value. To save even more, you simply need to join a Visible Party on the Visible community board on its website. This can bring your bill down to $25 per month if you join a party with at least four people.

Google Pixel 5 Review

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Best international: Google Fi Flexible

Google Fi Flexible

Pay for what you use

Reasons to buy

+
Only pay for what your use
+
Same price for international data
+
Hotspot included
+
Bill protection at 6GB

Reasons to avoid

-
Data throttled at 15GB
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Not all 5G phones get the full Fi network
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Apple iPhones still don't work with 5G

If you have a phone that works with T-Mobile's 5G network, you can get it connected with Google Fi. Google Fi's main flexible plan comes with unlimited calls and texts in the U.S. for $20 per month. Data comes in at $10 per gigabyte, but Google Fi stops charging you at 6GB of usage. After this, your data is unlimited, but it's significantly slowed down at 15GB. Still, if you use Wi-Fi points, this is enough for most people.

If you need more, Google Fi has an unlimited plan available that slows down at 22GB. All of Google Fi's plans come with hotspot capability, which shares your standard data. One of Google Fi's most remarkable features is data roaming at the same cost in over 200 countries worldwide. This makes Google Fi a great option for frequent travelers. Google Fi Unlimited also has a cheaper option without international roaming.

A few phones work with Google Fi's full network and include 5G, such as the Pixel 5 and Samsung Galaxy S21 series. You can bring other unlocked 5G phones to Google Fi, but they will only support the T-Mobile network. Google Fi's network switching alongside other great features such as a VPN connection, you can be sure your connection is secure whether you're on Wi-Fi or 5G in the U.S. or abroad. Be warned, Google Fi does not support 5G on iPhones at all despite supporting the proper bands.

Cricket Coverage Map S20+

Source: Samuel Contreras / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

Best on AT&T's network: Cricket Unlimited More

Cricket Unlimited More

Unlimited data backed by AT&T's massive network

Reasons to buy

+
Solid low-band 5G coverage
+
Unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico
+
Premium data unlimited
+
Multi-line savings

Reasons to avoid

-
SD video streaming

AT&T has been putting in work to expand its 5G network, including low-band sub-6 5G as well as mmWave. For most people, 5G on AT&T will be limited to the low-band network, but there are still some speed improvements to be had with the upgrade. If you're covered by AT&T 5G, one of the best values to try it out is with AT&T's prepaid carrier Cricket Wireless. All Cricket plans come with nationwide 5G but to get the most out of it, you'll want the $60 Cricket More Unlimited plan.

This plan comes with unlimited premium data, 15GB of wireless hotspot data, ad-supported HBO Max, and 150GB of cloud storage. This plan also comes with Cricket Call Defense, so you can get some extra spam call protection like postpaid carrier customers. Multi-line savings are available for up to five lines as well. Keep in mind that Cricket doesn't officially support 5G on all phones that will work, so it's a good idea to check with customer support to be sure.

Verizon 5G speed test

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Best mmWave network: Verizon Play More Unlimited

Verizon Play More Unlimited

Fastest wireless on a phone

Reasons to buy

+
Unlimited everything on Ultra-Wideband
+
50GB of premium data is enough for most people
+
Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu are included
+
15GB of mobile hotspot

Reasons to avoid

-
4G and Nationwide 5G Deprioritization at 50GB
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Still the smallest 5G network
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720 video streaming must be manually enabled

Verizon has an impressive 5G network with a growing mmWave network it calls Ultra-Wideband and a newer nationwide 5G network quickly making its way around the nation. Though the current coverage area isn't as dense as other carriers, Verizon's Ultra Wideband 5G speeds will outclass the Sub-6 networks — that is, until you go inside. Still, with a solid LTE network to fall back on, most people will have more than enough speed.

If you connect to Ultra Wideband, you get truly unlimited data, hotspot, and streaming quality. If you're on nationwide 5G, your plan and limits match the LTE service. The Play More Unlimited plan is a great fit to make the most of 5G, thanks to its Premium Network Access feature with 720p video streaming and 50GB of premium data. This goes well with the include Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu package. Verizon has packed in 12 months of Apple Arcade, Google Play Pass, Discovery+.

Bottom line

All 5G networks in the U.S. are growing rapidly with new cities being added all the time. And with most carriers, all you need is one of the best Android phones with 5G to get access. There's a good chance that if you already have one of the best cell phone plans, 5G access is included. While the speeds available on sub-6 5G aren't as great as some expected from 5G, carriers have gotten serious about mid-band 5G, and speeds will likely continue to improve over the next few years.

If you're ready to upgrade to 5G, T-Mobile has one of the most robust 5G solutions so far, and it's only improving with consistent updates, mid-band coverage rapidly growing with 200 million already covered, and millimeter-wave and C-band capacity ready to deploy when more people hop on 5G. T-Mobile considers 5G to be a normal part of its network and, luckily for you, doesn't charge a premium to use it. T-Mobile Magenta is the best way to experience 5G today at a reasonable price, Netflix included, and the largest 5G network by far.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Author:

Samuel Contreras When Samuel is not writing about networking, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.

When Samuel is not writing about networking or 5G at Android Central, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.