Less than a year after announcing that it would launch the first commercial 5G network in the United States, Verizon today officially turned on 5G services in four U.S. cities: Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. The company says it has started offering installations of its Verizon 5G Home broadband service today and named Houston resident Clayton Harris as “the first 5G customer in the world.”
While unquestionably significant, Verizon’s 5G launch in the United States comes with several qualifiers — including whether it’s truly the first, is actually 5G, and is legitimately as widespread as it initially sounds. As we’ve previously reported, smaller carriers rushed to launch the “world’s first 5G networks” in Qatar, Lesotho, Finland, and Estonia over the summer, and ahead of the U.S. Like Verizon, they are generally using pre-standards 5G networking gear and offering service in limited areas, sometimes without consumer hardware.
Verizon’s offering is an end-to-end 5G solution, including the necessary wireless hardware to deliver next-generation wireless speeds to home broadband users. The carrier is promising typical 300Mbps and peak 1Gbps connection speeds to customers, using Inseego broadband equipment that’s included in the $50 to $70 monthly service price. It also includes three months of free YouTube TV, as well as the customer’s choice of a free Apple TV 4K or Google Chromecast Ultra.
If the competitive pricing isn’t appealing enough, Verizon is offering its service free for the first three months and promising “First on 5G” customers early access to upcoming services, such as mobile 5G. Rival AT&T is launching a mobile 5G service in 12 cities this year, using wireless hotspot “pucks” to provide mobility, rather than new 5G smartphones or tablets.
Verizon’s main caveats are that it’s only launching 5G in “parts of” its four initial cities right now, and it is using “5G TF” equipment that will need to be updated to 3GPP standards-compliant 5G in the future. Based on prior personal experience with FIOS buildouts, Verizon might take years to extend its broadband services as promised or stop short of covering a full city. It’s also unclear when and how mobile 5G devices such as smartphones will be usable on the Verizon 5G network.
The carrier says it chose Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento for early 5G service because of forward-looking state and local leaders in those areas. It is apparently waiting until 3GPP-compliant 5G hardware is available to expand its 5G offerings to other cities.
“As our 5G technology partners bring … hardware, software, chipsets, and devices to market on the 3GPP 5G NR standard,” the company says, “we’ll upgrade First On 5G members to that equipment at no charge. When new network equipment is available and introduced, we’ll expand our 5G broadband internet coverage area quickly and bring 5G to additional cities.”
Customers interested in Verizon 5G Home service can check if service is available in their neighborhoods via the company’s FirstOn5G.com website. The company began taking service preorder requests on September 13.