Verizon Communications Inc. aims to be the first U.S. carrier out of the gate to offer mobile 5G service, naming two cities – Chicago and Minneapolis – for an initial launch next month of the advanced cellular technology.
In a glimpse of how the industry may structure pricing for its newest service, Verizon’s existing customers with unlimited data plans can add 5G service for $10 more a month, according to a statement.
Verizon sidestepped one of the main challenges to 5G introduction – the absence of 5G phones – by offering an adaptation. Starting Thursday, the company is taking orders for a $50 snap-on module for the Motorola Z3 phone, making it the only phone that will be enabled for the advanced service by the April 11 launch date.
The Midwestern metropolises are part of a Verizon roster that’s meant to include 30 markets by year-end.
The rush to the market underscores the eagerness of the carriers to sign up early adopters of the next-generation wireless technology. The race has had some awkward steps. In addition to Verizon’s strap-on approach, AT&T Inc. is calling its upgraded 4G service “5G E.” Sprint Corp. immediately challenged that in court, calling it fake and deceptive.
Last month, Sprint appeared to lead the pack by announcing it would start the first 5G service in May. The company said four initial cities – Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City – would have the service, followed by Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. Sprint said it would have 5G phones from LG Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. available for the launch.
The chase for customers has also been seen from some angles as a battle for global supremacy. President Donald Trump has viewed 5G expansion as a key technology arms race with China.
AT&T has a version of 5G service available to hotspot devices in parts of 12 cities today with seven more markets coming by midyear. Verizon started a 5G home broadband and TV service in parts of four cities last year. T-Mobile US Inc. has also promised mobile 5G service to start in 30 cities this year, with more comprehensive coverage coming next year.
(c) 2019, Bloomberg · Scott Moritz