Verizon was slated to unveil its 5G UWB (Ultra WideBand) service in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis the week of April 8, but it has jumped the gun and the service is live in the two locales right now. According to Verizon, users should see download speeds of 450 Mbit/s with peak speeds of "nearly" 1 Gbps. And unlike the carrier's LTE packages, 5G UWB is real unlimited with no data deprioritization after you've used a preset amount during a billing period.
Early tests show that the new 5G UWB network really lives up to the company's promise, with testing during the launch event reaching over 600 Mbps for those in attendance. Teams at Tom's Guide and Light Reading had similar experiences.
It's worth noting that while this is fast, it's not nearly as fast as Verizon promised during a CES 2019 keynote where Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said that the new network would provide peak data rates of 1Gbps in the short-term, rising to 10Gbps as the technology matures. There's a reason why, though: think of this as version one. According to a press release, Verizon says the following:
5G is a new and rapidly evolving technology and Verizon expects regular improvement in 5G Ultra Wideband speed, latency and overall network performance as Verizon engineers, working with a number of technology partners, continue to upgrade the network.
Just like 4G LTE when it was in its infancy, expect speeds to get faster and latency to get better as time goes by. But still, 600Mbps is nothing to sneeze at.
Verizon is using its 28GHz and 39GHz millimeter wave spectrum for the service. That means it can transmit a lot of data very quickly, but the distance it can travel isn't very far. The company will need to install a lot of small site modules to provide jumping off points for the new 5G UWB network, which explains why you can only use it in certain areas. These demos have been performed mere feet from the closest 5G base station, something that's probably not going to be consistently true as the service is more widely deployed.
In comparison, with its 4G LTE service that runs on the 700Mhz band, the company had the opposite situation — signal in that spectrum can travel very far and penetrate through buildings and LTE had a relatively fast rollout.
To use the service you'll need a handful of things. For starters, the only currently compatible phone is a Moto Z3 with the accompanying 5G Moto Mod. That will change in mid-May when the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G comes to Verizon. Once you have that sorted, you'll need to sign up for the UWB plan which is an extra $10 per month over the standard unlimited plan rates. Finally, you'll need to be in Downtown West, Downtown East, or Elliot Park in Minneapolis, or areas of the West Loop and the South Loop, around landmarks like Union Station, Willis Tower, The Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park and The Chicago Theatre in Chicago.
With plenty of holdings in the 28GHz and 39GHz millimeter wave spectrum, expect to see Verizon doing plenty of small 5G UWB rollouts throughout the rest of the year. The company says it plans to provide 5G UWB to 30 more cities by the end of 2019, and it's likely that building out existing installations will be happening at the same time.
Prepare yourself. 5G is coming.
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