UPDATED, April 4, 2019: Verizon launched mobile 5G service in Chicago and Minneapolis on Wednesday, one week earlier than it had previously stated.
Our #5GUltraWideband is now LIVE in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis. And we're not stopping there.— Verizon (@verizon) April 3, 2019
"We wanted to get 5G in the hands of customers as soon as we were able,” Kevin King, director of communications for Verizon told USA Today. "We were able to deliver 5G more quickly than previously promised. We’re excited, and this is an exciting day for our customers."
- Verizon announced that Chicago and Minneapolis will be the first two cities to get access to its mobile 5G network, with service launching on April 11. The company anticipates expanding to 30 cities nationwide by the end of 2019.
- Only customers with unlimited data plans will be able to subscribe for now, with unlimited 5G access starting at an additional $10 a month. The first 5G-ready phone will be the Motorola moto z3 with a special attachment, although the company will produce other 5G devices this year.
- Service will be limited in the launch cities. 5G will only be available in Chicago’s downtown Loop, the Magnificent Mile and the Gold Coast, River North and Old Town neighborhoods; Minneapolis service will be concentrated in Downtown West, Downtown East and Elliot Park.
After some fits and starts, Verizon’s announcement is the closest to what consumers have been promised: a mobile network with ultra-fast speeds capable of downloading a movie in just seconds. Verizon had previously launched 5G home service in select cities last year and AT&T has debuted a 5G-capable hotspot device, but there’s been an industrywide debate about what will truly constitute 5G.
Still, Verizon’s initial service will be extremely limited. The cheapest plan with 5G data will run $85 a month for an individual, on top of the $50 for a phone modification (Verizon has not released pricing information for its 5G phones). That, combined with the geographic limitations, means that only a select few customers will take advantage of the early service, and access will be especially limited in the early going for low-income subscribers who can’t afford a phone modification.
For Chicago and Minneapolis, however, city officials will get a leg up on what’s expected to be a game-changing technology for cities. The initial service in both cities is concentrated around downtown business districts and tourist areas (the Minneapolis coverage includes the city’s convention center and sports arenas), which will help visitors and workers take advantage of the service. The ultra-fast data sharing on 5G will help support technology like autonomous and connected cars, smart grids and health care advances, on top of helping speed up business. There’s hope that 5G can help give midsize cities, which may not always get new technology first, a boost and allow for more experimentation on smart solutions.
Verizon has not said what other cities will be on its list, although last year it did name Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis, Sacramento and Panama City, FL as its launch cities. Sprint, meanwhile, has said it anticipates putting 5G in nine U.S. cities this year; if a merger with T-Mobile goes through, the two companies would combine forces on a 5G network they say would not raise prices for consumers. AT&T has not detailed its hardware plans beyond its mobile hotspot.