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Up until now, nearly all of the portable 5G cellular devices offered by major carriers have been smartphones, devices with a constant need for both voice and data to facilitate phone calls and network connectivity. This week, Verizon is simultaneously launching the first 5G PC and a 5G data plan to support it, and the details are interesting, setting the stage for users to enjoy unlimited monthly access to 2Gbps connectivity for a fixed fee.
Lenovo may confuse some users with the newly renamed Flex 5G laptop, which was announced as Project Limitless and rebranded in January as Yoga 5G, alongside claims that it would be the first 5G laptop to market. Based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx 5G chipset and X55 modem, the Flex 5G has a 14-inch touchscreen and promises 24-hour battery life, using a hinge to convert the laptop into a large tablet form factor. In a demonstration video, Verizon shows the Flex reaching 5G speeds of over 2Gbps on its millimeter wave Ultra Wideband network, equaling the best cellular performance seen to date on 5G smartphones in the U.S.
The company’s 5G Ultra Wideband Connected Device Plan is arguably the more interesting part of the story, as it or something similar will be used to extend 5G connectivity to countless laptops and hotspots over the coming years. Verizon is pricing the plan at $30 per month when added to an existing line and offering unlimited access to its millimeter wave 5G network, including unlimited hotspot access. For business users accustomed to using — or worse yet, sharing — an in-the-field 4G connection between a smartphone and other devices, such as a laptop, the performance difference with 5G should be staggering, akin to accessing the fastest network resources in an office.
One hitch is that the $30 pricing is available solely to existing customers, with a higher $90 monthly charge for the plan as a completely standalone offering. Regardless, the numbers provide some clarity for what carriers are hoping to charge for truly unlimited access to direct 5G laptop service, hotspot service, and 4K streaming video, minus data caps.
Another hitch is that Verizon’s 5G network remains small: Its high-speed millimeter wave service is available only in small parts of 35 cities, and its low band 5G has yet to make its national debut. Low band 5G and all 5G uploading are initially achieving speeds barely better than 4G. The Flex 5G will be able to access both types of 5G, however, as well as automatically falling back to 4G and Wi-Fi as available. Verizon is also offering the option of its existing $10 monthly 4G plan with a meager 1GB of data for users who don’t want 5G service.
By contrast, rival AT&T debuted a single 5G hotspot back in 2018 without an unlimited data plan, instead charging business customers $70 per month for a paltry 15GB of 5G data — an offering AT&T deemed “comparable” to its $50 monthly 4G data plan with 10GB. At 5G speeds, users could easily exhaust a 15GB data plan in seconds, and top carriers across the world have deemed unlimited data packages “essential” to the proper use of 5G technology.
While the Flex 5G will still be offered as the Yoga 5G in some foreign markets, it will be available to purchase in the U.S. on June 18 for $1,400, including a year of Microsoft 365 Personal, with the option to split the cost over two years for $58.33 per monthly payment. Verizon’s new 5G Connected Device Plan will become available at the same time.
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