Verizon’s 5G to launch first in Chicago and Minneapolis on April 11

Verizon today announced the launch details of its first standards-based 5G wireless service. Starting on April 11, 5G will be available throughout areas of Chicago and Minneapolis. Current subscribers can expect to pay an additional $10 a month for access; at launch, the only supported device is the Motorola Z3 with the 5G Moto Mod.

Later in the year, once they become available, Verizon will support the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and LG’s V50 ThinQ.

Prices start at $85 a month for the base Go Unlimited plan and go up from there. When in 4G, the three eligible plans are subject to data throttling after a set amount of data, but when in 5G, that is not the case. Verizon says it will not throttle 5G data. “5G data usage with the moto mod is unlimited with no data de-prioritization,” the carrier said.

This will be Verizon’s first standards-based 5G network. Last year, Verizon launched in-home 5G service based off proprietary specifications. The 5G launching in Chicago, Minneapolis and eventually other cities is different and based off standards developed by 3GPP. The two 5G networks are not compatible, meaning owners of a 5G phone will not be able to use it on the 5G in-home network.

At launch, Verizon subscribers can only access 5G with the Moto Z3 and 5G Moto Mod add-on. For a limited time, the 5G Moto Mod is on sale for $50. The required Moto Z3 is also on sale for a limited time.

Verizon says it intends to bring 5G to more than 30 cities in 2019. At launch, the network will only be available in select areas of Chicago and Minneapolis. The carrier did not reveal the roll-out plan for the additional cities.

In Chicago, Verizon says 5G will be limited to areas around The Loop, Gold Coast, River North and Old Town areas. For Minneapolis, 5G will hit Downtown West, Downtown East and Elliot Park.

Verizon is not alone in slowly deploying 5G. Carriers worldwide are rolling out their first 5G networks. At MWC Barcelona 2019, a Qualcomm executive stated in 2019, 20 mobile operators are launching 5G in 60 markets. In late 2018, the first 5G network launched in the U.S., followed by three services in South Korea. Availability is limited in each market as carriers stress-test the systems and slowly roll them out to different users. In Korea, at launch, the networks were only available to enterprise customers.

Last month, AT&T started changing the 4G logos on some Android phones to say 5G E. While the phones might be getting slightly faster speeds, they are not, despite AT&T’s marketing, running on a 5G network. AT&T’s peers quickly called out the carrier on it and Sprint filed a lawsuit stating, “What AT&T touts as 5G, however, is nothing more than an enhanced fourth generation Long Term Evolution wireless service, known as 4G LTE Advanced, which is offered by all other major wireless carriers.”

AT&T’s true 5G network will go by the branding 5G+. It’s confusing — and will get worse.

Sprint’s 5G effort is different from Verizon or AT&T. Announced in late February, the carrier intends to use existing cellular spectrum to more quickly launch its 5G network at the expense of the speed of the network. This is different from other carriers that will use different spectrum, allowing their networks to offer faster speeds but at the expense of a slower roll-out.

There’s an arms race of sorts, but it means little in the near future. 5G promises to bring ultra-high speeds and ultra-low latency, allowing devices to take advantage of edge computing. But at launch, in 2019 and perhaps even 2020, devices will just have access to faster speeds — and to many users, that might not be enough to justify upgrading.

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