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Verizon 5G rollout: Everything you need to know

With the T-Mobile/Sprint merger now complete, the race is on to built nationwide 5G networks. While Verizon was first to launch its 5G network, recently both T-Mobile and AT&T have started to aggressively build out their own. By the end of 2020, a large percentage of the country will have access to 5G in some form. But Verizon is a behemoth and has the capacity (and money) to aggressively vie for a piece of the U.S. 5G pie.

But wait, what is 5G, anyway? The fifth generation of wireless networks, or 5G, has been nearly a decade in the making, and it’s finally becoming a reality. Promising dramatically faster speeds, instantaneous communication, and the ability to network everything, 5G has incredible potential. A limited rollout of the service began in select cities in 2018, and 5G started appearing in cities around the U.S. in 2019, with much more comprehensive launches expected throughout 2020.

Are you a Verizon customer? Here’s everything you need to know about Verizon’s 5G rollout.

Verizon 5G availability: Major U.S. cities

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How fast is Verizon 5G?

Since Verizon uses only mmWave technology to power its 5G network, its 5G speeds are the fastest in the world right now, according to OpenSignal. Customers see average speeds of 506.1Mbps, more than twice the speed of South Korea’s major carriers, which have long been the leaders when it comes to mobile internet speeds.

The jump from LTE to 5G is considerable. Verizon’s LTE speeds average just 27.4Mbps, OpenSignal says. But Verizon’s 5G numbers will always skew high as its intent on using only mmWave for its 5G deployments for now. What does this mean for you? More likely than not, you’ll find yourself on Verizon’s LTE network, but where Verizon’s 5G is live, you’ll have the best 5G experience in the world right now.

Mobile 5G

It’s official: Verizon won the race. The company flipped the switch in April 2019, turning on 5G in Chicago and Minneapolis. If you live in a specific area in those cities and happen to have a 5G-compatible smartphone, you can now enjoy 5G.

Since then, Verizon has expanded service to 34 cities, the most recent additions being Little Rock, Arkansas; Kansas City, Missouri; and Cincinnati, Ohio. We have a full list later in this post.

Verizon 5G services are also available in 24 stadiums and arenas. Initially, 13 NFL stadiums went live in September 2019, including:

  • Bank of America Stadium (Carolina Panthers)
  • Empower Field at Mile High (Denver Broncos)
  • CenturyLink Field (Seattle Seahawks)
  • Ford Field (Detroit Lions)
  • Gillette Stadium (New England Patriots)
  • Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Dolphins)
  • Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis Colts)
  • MetLife Stadium (New York Giants and Jets)
  • M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore Ravens)
  • NRG Stadium (Houston Texans)
  • Soldier Field (Chicago Bears)
  • U.S. Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings)

In December 2019, Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia Eagles), FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland Browns), and New Era Field (Buffalo Bills) were added, and Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City Chiefs) was added in January 2020.

In indoor arenas, Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Chase Center in San Francisco, Pepsi Center in Denver, and Madison Square Garden in New York City went live last October, with KeyBank Center in Buffalo, United Center in Chicago, and Moda Center coming online through the beginning of this year.

Here’s a rundown of all the cities with Verizon’s 5G.

U.S. cities with Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband
Atlanta, Georgia Boston, Massachusetts
Boise, Idaho Charlotte, North Carolina
Chicago, Illinois Cincinnati, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio Columbus, Ohio
Dallas, Texas Denver, Colorado
Des Moines, Iowa Detroit, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan Greensboro, North Carolina
Hampton Roads, Virginia Hoboken, New Jersey
Houston, Texas Indianapolis, Indiana
Kansas City, Missouri Little Rock, Arkansas
Los Angeles, California Memphis, Tennessee
Miami, Florida Minneapolis, Minnesota
New York, New York Omaha, Nebraska
Panama City, Florida Phoenix, Arizona
Providence, Rhode Island  Saint Paul, Minnesota
Sioux Falls, South Dakota Spokane, Washington
Washington, D.C.
U.S. cities that will soon get Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband
San Diego, California

Verizon 5G pricing

It’s relatively inexpensive to get access to Verizon’s 5G and if you have a 5G-enabled phone and live in an area with a 5G network. But you do pay extra for 5G access.

On Verizon’s cheapest new plan, the $70 per month Start Unlimited, you’ll pay $10 extra monthly for 5G. The $10 fee is supposed to apply for the $80 per month Do More and Play More plans and the $90 per month Get More offering, however at least for the time being Verizon is waving the fee as long as a 5G device is on your plan. That may change in the future.

Verizon 5G speeds

So just how fast will Verizon’s 5G network get? Well, according to Verizon, 5G networks may one day boast speeds of up to 10Gbps. We tested Verizon 5G in person with a Samsung Galaxy S10 5G last year in Chicago, and achieved speeds of up to 1.35Gbps.

Of course, there are several factors affect the speed of 5G networks. Notably, the more people that are connected to a network, the slower speeds will be. Not only that, but your distance to a 5G node may impact speeds too. That said, 5G technology will likely get better over time, and the result will likely be faster speeds.

Indoor 5G

One of the biggest problems with 5G, and especially mmWave, is that it’s not very good at going through obstacles like walls — making it difficult to get good 5G reception when you’re indoors. Verizon is trying to change that. The company has announced a new partnership with Boingo Wireless to help customers get better 5G reception when they’re inside a building.

There aren’t too many details about what the new indoor 5G infrastructure will look like — just that the two companies are working “to bring 5G Ultra Wideband service indoors and to public spaces — places like airports, stadiums, and arenas, office buildings, hotels, etc.” How? With a “hyper-dense network designed for large and small indoor spaces.”

For now, if you do have access to 5G in your city, you’ll probably be more or less limited to using it outside.

Verizon Home 5G

Verizon isn’t just offering mobile 5G access — the carrier also has a home 5G service, which converts 5G signal to Wi-Fi, allowing you to use your laptop, smart home devices, and so on, on Verizon’s 5G network.

The service is available only in select areas, but it’s not all that expensive. You can get a Verizon Home 5G plan for $50 per month, as long as you already have a Verizon Wireless plan that’s at least $30 per month. If you don’t have a Verizon Wireless plan, you’ll pay $70 per month for the Home 5G service.

At this point, Verizon’s 5G service isn’t very widely available, but you can see if you’re in an area with Verizon Home 5G at Verizon’s website.

5G network

Verizon wants its 5G to offer impeccable speeds with low latency. To meet those demands, Verizon is initially deploying its 5G network on millimeter wave spectrum (mmWave). And while mmWave will undoubtedly offer the fastest 5G experience, it has its flaws.

One of the notable challenges with the implementation of new “small cell” towers is the fact that they require local government approval — meaning that carriers need approval in every city they want to install these new towers. To attempt to speed that up, Verizon is encouraging customers to lobby their elected officials. The new “Let’s 5G” website is aimed at both informing people about 5G and what it could offer, and informing users on how they can speed up the process of 5G deployment.

Verizon’s mmWave is relying on the 28 GHz spectrum. One of the challenges with using the high-band spectrum is that it does not cover a large area, and penetration is a serious challenge. Digital Trends flew to Chicago twice to test the Moto Z3 with the 5G Moto Mod and the Galaxy S10 5G on Verizon’s new network, and while we saw 1Gbps download speeds, the range and building penetration were seriously poor.

Over the next several years, Verizon will build out its 5G network around the country using small cells, and will eventually deploy service on a mid- and low-band spectrum. For the next several years Verizon’s 5G service will piggyback off its massive 4G network. Expect to see 5G service in larger cities and busy places like airports and stadiums, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to see the service in the suburbs and rural areas for years to come.

5G hardware

Verizon has a nice selection of 5G phones, at a wide variety of price points, arguably the best of any carrier. Here’s what is currently available.

  • OnePlus 8 5G UW$800 ($33.33/mo.)
  • LG V60 ThinQ 5G UW$950 ($39.58/mo.)
  • Motorola Edge+$1,000 ($33.33/mo)
  • LG V50 ThinQ 5G$1,000 ($41.66/mo.)
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus 5G$1,200 ($49.99/mo.)
  • Samsung Galaxy Note10 Plus 5G$1,300 ($54.16/mo.)
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G$1,400 ($58.33/mo.)

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