Verizon has been in a cutthroat competition with AT&T to be the first carrier to offer 5G, and it already claimed that title — sort of. The telecom giant launched a pre-standard 5G network in the fall of 2018, deciding to move forward with its own technology rather than wait for slow-moving standards bodies to ratify a “final” specification. Competitors claim it’s not “real 5G” and fret about compatibility issues. Meanwhile, Verizon was out front and rolling ahead — and the company’s stock even went up thanks to the PR victory.
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. That will spur a lot of innovation of course.”
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 will start appearing in cities around the U.S. in 2019, with much more comprehensive rollouts expected in 2020. For its part, Verizon rolled out a limited version of 5G for homes in 2018 and plans to broaden that and launch a nationwide mobile network this year. Here’s everything you need to know about Sprint’s rollout of 5G. Here’s everything you need to know about Verizon’s massive 5G rollout.
Verizon wants its 5G to offer impeccable speeds with low latency. To meet those demands, Verizon will initially deploy 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 — essentially 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 will initially roll out its 5G service on 28 GHz spectrum. One of the challenges with using the high-band spectrum is that it does not easily cover a large area, and penetration is a serious challenge. 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.
In a real-world demonstration of the network at CES 2019, CEO Hans Vestburg showed speeds of 900 Mbps, as well as a crystal-clear video conference with the first fixed-wireless customer in Texas.
For the next several years Verizon’s 5G service will piggyback off its massive 5G network. Expect to see 5G service in larger cities and busy places like airports and stadiums, but you will be unlikely to see the service in the suburbs and rural areas for years to come.
Although Verizon will release standards-based mobile 5G (called 5G NR) in 2019, it has yet to provide details on the exact location. Expect to hear more details in the very near future.
When it comes to mobile hardware, there’s not a lot to report. Right now, Verizon has confirmed only a handful of mobile devices with 5G modems.
The carrier announced the Moto Z3 with a 5G compatible Moto Mod last summer; at CES 2019 in January, CEO Hans Vestburg confirmed that it will be the company’s first 5G smartphone. Although a release date has yet to be announced for the Moto Mod, we expect to see it in the first half of 2019 — most likely at MWC 2019 in late February.
In December, Verizon announced two new pieces of hardware. The first is an upcoming Samsung-branded 5G smartphone. More details will be announced in the coming months, and the handset will be released in the first part of 2019.
Verizon also closed out the year with a 5G mobile hotspot announcement. The carrier tapped Inseego to create the MiFi 5G hotspot, announcing the device during the Qualcomm Snapdragon Technology Summit in Maui. The hotspot will be released at some point in 2019.
Verizon will likely be the first carrier to roll out fixed 5G. In October, the carrier rolled out pre-standard fixed 5G — a service it calls Verizon 5G Home — in parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. The service is available for $50 for current Verizon subscribers and $70 for those who want standalone service.
Verizon says there are no data caps with the service, which will require will a technician to install the equipment (in contrast, T-Mobile claims its customers will be able to install its fixed wireless service without help).
Expect to see the pre-standard 5G replaced with 5G NR in the coming months as the city updates its hardware and software. Verizon plans to deploy fixed 5G to additional locations across the country in 2019, though it has not named cities just yet.
Fixed Wireless Hardware
Since Verizon already has fixed 5G service in four cities, it makes sense it would have the hardware. The carrier partnered with Inseego to release its first 5G home router.
According to Verizon, the Inseego R1000 Router with 4×4 MIMO boasts greater data throughput and supports mesh nodes for expanded coverage.
Updated on February 13, 2019: Verizon wants customers to lobby the government for the deployment of 5G.