Verizon has officially turned its 5G wideband network on in certain areas of Minneapolis and Chicago, ushering in the first commercially available 5G network in the U.S.
In order to get access to the 5G network, however, a customer must have a Motorola Moto z3 smartphone equipped with a 5G Moto mod. This will allow users to reach speeds up to 1 Gbp/s, Verizon said. However, users should expect typical download speeds of 450 Mbps with latency of less than 30 ms.
The rollout is the first of a planned series of launches of 5G services by Verizon to more than 30 U.S. cities in 2019. Verizon said it will work to improve its 5G speed, latency and network performance over this year and beyond as the company upgrades its network and software updates are pushed to devices throughout 2019.
In Chicago, 5G coverage will be concentrated in dense population areas of the West Loop and the South Loop around Union Station, Willis Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park and the Chicago Theatre. 5G service will also be available at the Verizon store on the Magnificent Mile and throughout the Gold Coast, Old Town and River North.
In Minneapolis, 5G service will be available in both the east and west parts of the downtown area as well as inside and around U.S. Bank Stadium and landmarks such as the Minneapolis Convention Center, Minneapolis Central Library, the Mill City Museum, Target Center, Elliot Park and the Verizon store in the Mall of America.
When users move outside of a 5G coverage area, the 5G Moto mod hands off the signal to Verizon’s 4G LTE network.
This is the first time a carrier has established the protocol for when the 5G network doesn’t extend to a certain location and where the signal goes after. It is unclear how the 4G LTE hand off will occur. Will it be seamless, or will it result in momentarily dropped coverage?
This also confirms that most of the cities getting 5G deployment will not be covered completely. Users in a densely populated area of the city may get 5G service, while users in the suburbs and other areas might still only have 4G service. Full, citywide coverage may not happen until further equipment deployment happens.
The official launch of 5G services follows Verizon’s successful test of its 5G New Radio connection late last year running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Mobile Platform with the Snapdragon X50 5G NR modem and antenna modules with integrated RF transceiver, RF front-end and antenna elements.
Verizon is racing not just other telecoms in the U.S., but also other countries such as South Korea who is accelerating its rollout of 5G services, revealing pricing for its initial smartphones as well as unveiling Ericsson as the company supplying KT (formerly known as Korea Telecom) with 5G equipment. KT also announced it has achieved 1 Gbps speed over its commercial network for the first time earlier this year. AT&T also announced recently that it has achieved mobile 5G speeds that surpass 1 GB/sec.