Starting April 11, Verizon will be the first major cellular carrier in the United States to introduce a mobile network for the fifth-generation of data technology known as 5G. At the Mobile World Congress, the company teased that it would implement 5G in 30 unnamed cities by the end of 2019, but it was withholding about the details. On March 13, it revealed the first two locations to get the option to upgrade: Chicago and Minneapolis.
Verizon is only 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, Verizon has laid out an ambitious plan to have established nationwide coverage by some time 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 Mobile Service: Which Cities Have It
The first phase of Verizon’s roll out plan of its mobile 5G network will begin in Chicago, Illinois and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Unfortunately service will only be concentrated in certain areas of the cities.
- In Chicago, Verizon says its “5G Ultra Wideband” service will be available in five specific places, one of them a Verizon store. These include:
- The Loop
- The Gold Coast
- River North
- Old Town
- The Verizon Store on the Magnificent Mile
- Verizon has adopted a similar formula for upgrading the networks in Minneapolis. To start, Verizon’s 5G network will only be accessible in the following four areas of the city:
- Downtown West
- Downtown East
- Elliot Park
- The Verizon Store at the Mall of America
Verizon 5G Mobile Service: Price
- Verizon has announced three different plans that will be available to residents in Chicago and Minneapolis starting April 11. Each of the prices listed are for one phone line:
- Go Unlimited is $85 per month and is subject to throttling.
- Beyond Unlimited is $95 per month for 22GB of unthrottled LTE.
- Above Unlimited is $105 per month and 75GB of LTE before throttling
Verizon 5G Home Service: Which Cities Have It
- Aside from its mobile network, Verizon has also 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:
- Sacramento, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Houston, TX
- Indianapolis, IN
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.
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: How It’ll Work
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.”
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. Chicago and Minneapolis will be the first two on this list that will see 5G service by April 11.
Verizon 5G: Moto Z3, Galaxy S10 & Other 5G Smartphones
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.
The Motorola Moto Z3 will be the first 5G-supporting phone in the country. The modular phone was released in 2018 and its 5G attachment will be available for pre-order for $50 until April 11. Z3 owners in Chicago and Minneapolis might want to act fast, after the network becomes available the mod will retail for $349.99.
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.
- 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.