The fifth-generation of mobile data technology has the potential to revolutionize online gaming, usher in a new era of home robots, and enable connected cars. But any of that comes true, cellular carriers need to deploy the infrastructure necessary to transition away from 4G LTE.
Verizon is one of the four companies at the forefront of making 5G a reality and was one of the first entities to partner with tech brands to bring the earliest 5G-ready smartphones to market. Alongside AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, the carrier has laid out an ambitious plan to give residents in certain cities access to 5G by the end of 2019, with nationwide coverage slated for sometime in 2020.
The rollout is underway, and indeed, Verizon has already managed to get some portions of its 5G network up-and-running. But despite all the hype, you may not want to pull the trigger on upgrading to 5G just yet: As with any early-stage tech, being first in line can lead to a mix of spotty coverage and high price tags, with some 5G-capable phones costing more than $2,000.
Here’s how far Verizon has gotten in its grand plan to replace 5G, what’s left to be done, and how consumers can access the network as soon as it rolls out.
Verizon 5G Home Service: Which Cities Have It
As it stands, Verizon has only deployed its 5G home service . This pilot allows people to experience 5G within their home, but it also means that customers won’t necessarily be able to walk around town surfing the web on 5G. It’s also only available in a handful of cities, including:
Los Angeles, CA
Verizon’s major goal for 2019 is to get its 5G mobile network up and running, which is ultimately what will allow you to take your 5G-capable phone and its browsing speed on the go (it’s also what will wind up replacing the little 4G LTE symbol at the top corner of your smartphone with a 5G icon).
In the meanwhile, Verizon home service will still deliver some noticeable improvements: Customers in certain parts of the U.S. can pay $70 a month to get access to reported internet speeds of 300 Megabits per second. You can check if the service is available in your hometown by typing in your address into Verizon’s site. That said, not everyone thinks home service will be easily to scale, a point Verizon competitor and T Mobile CEO John Legere made on Twitter in a sarcastic note of congratulations.
I cannot begin to explain how important 5G is going to be for this country, so I have to say congrats to Verizon on delivering its 5G* Home Service today. It doesn’t use global industry standards or cover whole blocks and will never scale… but hey, it is first, right?!
Your mileage may also vary, as the standards with any new generation of mobile browsing tend to be inconsistent. Currently, most internet service providers will advertise 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps as their maximum speed. Verizon’s 5G home plan is already notably faster than that, and it hasn’t even come close to its full potential. The company has advertised max speeds of near 1 Gigabits per second for its home users and close to the same for its mobile network.
But there’s a lot of work to do before that happens.
Verizon 5G: First Cities to Get It
Verizon will plans to use a higher-frequency spectrum of waves for its 5G network than other carriers. In order to support this shift away from lower frequency 4G LTE, the company will need to install these backpack-sized cells on existing cell towers, light poles, and buildings. These components will direct Verizon’s millimeter wave network, which senior vice president Ed Chan described as the lanes of an information “superhighway.”
“But instead of these individual small lanes, imagine there are tens of thousands of gigantic lanes put together,” explains Ed Chan, Verizon’s senior vice president and chief technology architect. “That’s how we’re delivering 5G. That’s why you see the massive difference in the ability to deliver this kind of bandwidth.”
In his keynote address, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg laid out the network’s plans for 5G this year.
The company has expanded its planned 5G coverage to 30 cities by the end of 2019, said CEO Hans Vestberg during a February 21 meeting with investors. That said, the company didn’t offer many more details beyond the number, including which lucky cities would be getting 5G infrastructure first.
Verizon 5G: Galaxy S10 & Other 5G Smartphones
The vagueness of Verizon’s 5G plans hasn’t presented all that much of a barrier to some big name smartphone partnerships. To enjoy 5G’s browsing speeds, users will need to purchase a phone that comes with a 5G ready modem, like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50. Old smartphones simply don’t have the built-in hardware needed to pick up on higher-frequency waves.
Samsung revealed that it would launch its Galaxy S10 5G phone exclusively with Verizon during its Unpacked event on February 20. The 6.7-inch handset doesn’t have a set release date or price just yet, but it’s been said to tout a 4,500 mAh and, with 5G-capabilities, it could allow mobile gamers to play online games virtually lag-free in the future.
The Moto Z3 will eventually receive an attachment that enables it to use Verizon’s 5G network.
Motorola technically released the first 5G-supporting phone in mid-2018, the Moto Z3, but users still don’t have access to the network. The modular handset is only available to Verizon customers and once 5G networks are up and running, Z3 owners will be able to buy a 5G attachment which will grant them access to high-speed browsing.
Aside from those, there are a host of 5G-enabled phones that were recently announced. These include:
Once 5G becomes more accessible, expect more phones to allow users to access the network. Until then these are the few handsets that customers can use to ensure early access to the fifth-generation of wireless broadband. Being first-in-line for 5G browsing may be enticing to some, but it’s important to remember these smartphones likely won’t be able to fulfill their potential for most users until 2020.