Skip to main content

How Verizon’s Super Bowl demo finally got me excited for 5G

I have a confession to make: For as much as I talk about a 5G wireless future among friends and colleagues, I’ve had a hard time feeling excited about it. On Wednesday, January 29, 2020, Verizon changed my mind.

Verizon Wireless, as part of its installation at the Super Bowl Live complex at Bayfront in Miami, Florida, gave me a demonstration of the 5G fan experience it is offering at the Hard Rock Stadium for Super Bowl LIV, and now I finally get it.

“You don’t just show up in the fourth quarter of 2019 ahead of the Super Bowl,” Nicki Palmer, Verizon’s Chief Product Development Officer told me. “I think our network team has watch parties when they announce the Super Bowl locations a number of years out because they know if it’s coming to their neck of the woods, they’ve got to start planning.”

Verizon 5G Super Bowl
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Verizon installed a command center in Miami almost two years ago with the aim of blanketing key parts of the city and Hard Rock Stadium in 5G. Several hotels, key tourist areas, the stadium, and the stadium parking lot all have solid, lightning-fast 5G connectivity up and running now. It’s a project that required miles of fiber-optic cable and cost about $80 million. But why?

For one, it’s great marketing. As a partner with the NFL, Verizon is poised to leverage the publicity of the Super Bowl to its advantage. But beyond that, it seeks to bring unique experiences to NFL fans descending on the city for the week. And at the stadium specifically, fans are getting something never seen before. Something they are hungry for.

What 5G can actually do

What does a 5G experience look like? Imagine holding your phone up in the stadium like you’re going to take a picture, but instead, augmented reality greets you with instant information you can immediately use. Find the closest restrooms and see their wait times. Find the food you want to eat and see how long it will take to get it, locate your car in the parking lot and get directions to it from your seat. And that’s just the start.

Want to buy some merchandise? The app will point you toward your favorite team’s jersey. Want stats on a player? Point your phone at them and it pops up. You can see the quarterback’s playbook as they position themselves to hike the ball. And if you want to see a replay, not only can you control the playback, you can do it from any angle in 3D space.

Verizon 5G Super Bowl Demo
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Speaking of multi-angle playback, Verizon 5G allows you to see the game from any number of angles. Just pick the camera view you want to see in real-time, and you can zoom in tight to exactly what you want to see. For now, this experience is limited to the Super Bowl, but it is only a matter of time until it comes home.

These experiences haven’t been possible until now. That’s because they rely on the insane speed and instantaneous reaction time that only 5G can make possible.

There’s more, of course. Facial recognition can be accomplished in real-time thanks to edge computing, and that same edge computing promises mobile gaming that competes with the best console and PC gaming available, all because ultra-fast 5G data allows all the heavy lifting to be taken on by supercomputers located in some building miles away.

Ultimately, 5G speed promises a bevy of new experiences that could transform the way we live. The question is whether or not Verizon can deploy its short-range, ultra-high-speed 5G solution broadly enough so that everyone can take advantage of it.

And that’s the challenge. Verizon’s version of 5G is insanely fast, but it is very short range. The reason Verizon’s Miami project cost upwards of $80 million is that it had to deploy a ridiculously high density of 5G nodes in order to ensure coverage over such large areas. Is that a scalable strategy? We’ll see. But Verizon sure seems bullish about it.

Still, I’m convinced 5G has some exciting things in store in the near future. That’s not something I would have said a few days ago.

Editors' Recommendations

Caleb Denison
Digital Trends Editor at Large Caleb Denison is a sought-after writer, speaker, and television correspondent with unmatched…
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X35 will bring 5G to your next smartwatch
Qualcomm Snapdragon X35.

Qualcomm is poised to deliver 5G capabilities to a whole new class of mobile devices with a new modem chip that bridges the gap between today's best smartphones and much lower-bandwidth devices like payment terminals and home accessories.

Announced today, Qualcomm's Snapdragon X35 5G Modem-RF system is the world's first to adopt NR-Light, a new 5G standard for midtier devices that don't require the power and performance of a 5G-capable smartphone or tablet — but can still take advantage of the lower latency and power consumption offered by 5G technology.
Filling the 5G void

Read more
Here’s another big reason why T-Mobile 5G dominates AT&T and Verizon
T-Mobile smartphone.

T-Mobile continues to command a massive lead in offering the best 5G experience among U.S. carriers. A few weeks ago, a report from Ookla revealed that T-Mobile is leaving its rivals in the dust; now Opensignal has confirmed that not only is the Un-carrier’s lead increasing in raw speeds, but it’s leading the way in taking 5G into the mainstream.

According to Opensignal’s latest 5G Experience Report, T-Mobile not only offers the fastest 5G experience in the U.S. by a sizeable margin but on average, customers on T-Mobile spend nearly 50% of their time on the carrier’s 5G network.
Reaching for the best 5G coverage

Read more
T-Mobile is leaving AT&T and Verizon in the 5G dust
The T-Mobile logo on a smartphone.

Ookla has just published its latest market report revealing where U.S. mobile carriers and smartphone manufacturers stand in terms of providing the best 5G and 4G/LTE services.

Not surprisingly, T-Mobile remained in the top spot during the fourth quarter of 2022, eclipsing its rivals when it comes to median download speeds. What may be more surprising is that T-Mobile has increased its lead, clocking in at 151.37Mbps overall and 216.56Mbps for 5G, breaking the 200Mbps barrier for median 5G speeds across all bands for the first time.

Read more