The road to the next generation of wireless has thus far been paved with asterisks. Verizon rolled out the first 5G network last year (but the equipment doesn’t meet 5G standards and it only covers home internet) while AT&T rolled out the first mobile 5G network in December (but the service relies on a hotspot device because 5G-compatible phones aren’t available yet) and confused many of its costumers with its “5G -E” label (because 5G-E, or 5G-Evolution, is just a rebrand of 4G-LTE).
But now Verizon may finally be about to debut its first mobile 5G service with no big qualifiers. The carrier said today that it will switch on 5G networks in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis on April 11. The higher speeds will cost subscribers $10 extra for an unlimited package and only work on a Motorola Z3 phone outfitted with the 5G Moto Mod attachment (both now available for pre-order), but it still technically counts.
“Continuing our track record of 5G ‘firsts,’ we are thrilled to bring the first 5G-upgradeable smartphone exclusively to Verizon customers,” Verizon’s chief technology officer, Kyle Malady, said in a statement. “It will change the way we live, work, learn and play, starting in Chicago and Minneapolis and rapidly expanding to more than 30 U.S. markets this year.”
As the first real 5G-enabled phones start to go on sale in the next couple months, all three major carriers have plans to inaugurate or expand their 5G network offerings in cities across the United States in the first half of the year. Sprint has set its sights on a May initial rollout, T-Mobile sometime before June and AT&T expects to make 5G phones available by the end of March. However, 5G probably won’t be widely available on all phones until at least next year.
The shift to 5G is expected to boost speeds by up to 100 times what’s currently available, and foster a host of new Internet of Things (IoT) markets. These initial rollouts will provide the first real-world tests of whether that all might eventually come to pass.