Verizon announced this week that the LG Wing will receive an update that will allow it to use Verizon’s latest 5G spectrum — more than a year after LG left the smartphone business altogether. The LG Wing is certified to use mid-band spectrum called C-band, a key part of Verizon’s 5G network that delivers better-than-LTE speeds and a wide signal. Verizon spokesperson George Koroneos says the update arrived on devices yesterday and will roll out the rest of the week.
That’s good news if you’re one of the few people who bought an LG Wing, and really a testament to LG for delivering on its promise to continue to provide some support for its devices. But why is a year-and-a-half old phone from a defunct mobile brand getting this update now, while last year’s Google Pixel 5A, for example, isn’t? Because 5G is still a mess in this country, that’s why.
Carriers have been frantically collecting 5G spectrum in recent years in a bid to win an imagined race. While AT&T and Verizon had to wait to get their hands on their share of the all-important mid-band spectrum, they got creative and did things like repackaging LTE as “5G Evolution” and pretending mmWave was the future. Meanwhile, T-Mobile has gobbled up the country’s fourth-largest wireless carrier for its mid-band spectrum, and its replacement is facing endless delays.
Their efforts to win the “race to 5G” have resulted in a confusing patchwork of network frequencies that require the appropriate hardware, software, and FCC permissions to use. With so many hoops to jump through, manufacturers like Google can launch a phone that could be support C-band, but ultimately decide not to take the last hurdle to certify it on the carrier’s network.
This isn’t something to worry about if you buy a new 5G phone through your carrier – it will almost certainly work with any 5G network they currently promote. But if you have a 5G phone from your carrier that’s a year or two old, or an unlocked phone, it’s much less clear which networks they support and which they don’t. LG may not get the smartphone business, but at least they got that part right.