Verizon 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

Verizon and Boingo are working to improve 5G reception indoors

Verizon has been in a cutthroat competition with the rest of the major U.S. carriers to be the first to offer 5G service, and it has now claimed that title. The telecom giant launched its cellular 5G network in select cities, meaning that with the right device and location, you can finally enjoy 5G speeds.

According to Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, 5G “has the potential to be one of the most transformative technologies that we’ve seen in a long time,” and he’s not wrong.

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 mobile 5G has started appearing in cities around the U.S., with much more comprehensive launches expected in 2020. For its part, Verizon began its mobile 5G launch in Chicago and Minneapolis in April.

Here’s everything you need to know about Verizon’s 5G rollout.

Indoor 5G

One of the biggest problems with 5G, or at least 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, however, 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.

Mobile 5G

Verizon storefront
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

It’s official: Verizon made it first. The company flipped the switch in April, turning on 5G in both Chicago and Minneapolis. If you live in a specific area in those cities and happen to have a Moto Z3 or Moto Z4 with a 5G Moto Mod, you can now finally enjoy 5G.

If you’re in Denver, Colorado — good news: Verizon’s 5G network is now live in select areas as well. Providence, Rhode Island wasn’t far behind either, as it got Verizon’s 5G network on July 1, 2019. St. Paul, Minnesota, was granted 5G access on July 18, and Verizon even managed to squeeze four more cities into July by adding 5G service for Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Washington, D.C., on July 31. Next up is Phoenix, which is getting 5G access starting on August 23.

Verizon announced it will release its 5G Ultra Wideband network in as many as 30 cities by the end of 2019. Twenty of those cities were named on April 25, and we’ve listed them below so you can find your nearest city easily. In terms of pricing, Verizon subscribers who want 5G need to pay an additional $10 on top of their current Unlimited data plan.

U.S. cities with Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband

  • Atlanta
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Indianapolis
  • Minneapolis
  • Providence
  • St. Paul
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Phoenix

U.S. cities that will get Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband in 2019

  • Boston
  • Charlotte
  • Cincinnati
  • Cleveland
  • Columbus
  • Dallas
  • Des Moines
  • Houston
  • Indianapolis
  • Kansas City
  • Little Rock
  • Memphis
  • San Diego
  • Salt Lake City

5G network

Verizon 5G Node
Verizon 5G node. Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

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

galaxy s10 5g speed test
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

When it comes to 5G hardware, there’s not a lot to report. Right now, Verizon has confirmed only a handful of mobile devices with 5G modems as well as a hotspot.

  • Moto Z3 with 5G Moto Mod
  • Moto Z4 with 5G Moto Mod
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
  • LG V50 ThinQ 5G
  • Inseego MiFi 5G M1000 hotspot

The Inseego MiFi hotspot allows you to experience the benefits of 5G, without being tied to the limitations of it on a phone.

We’ll be updating this list as more 5G devices launch on Verizon.

Updated on August 22, 2019: Verizon and Boingo are partnering to bring 5G indoors.

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