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5G

Verizon Reaches 5G Buildout Goal, Promises More to Come

Verizon says it now offers commercial 5G services in a total of 31 US cities, fulfilling its promise to deploy 5G in its millimeter-wave spectrum across more than 30 major metro areas by the end of 2019.

And the operator's top network executive said that "this is just the beginning."

"We said we would lead in 5G and we are," noted Verizon CTO Kyle Malady in a statement.

Verizon crossed the 30-market threshold by launching 5G in parts of Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, and Hampton Roads, Va. As Cnet noted, the operator now offers 5G across seven compatible phones, though customers must sign up for an unlimited data plan -- and potentially pay an extra $10 per month -- in order to access the service.

As in its other 5G markets, Verizon's 5G service in Cleveland, Columbus and Hampton Roads is only available in a few locations. Indeed, the operator's newly launched 5G coverage maps show just how sparse Verizon's 5G coverage really is, with signals in some cities covering outdoor areas across just a few downtown blocks.

That's mostly due to the nature of transmissions in millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum. Signals in such spectrum can carry enormous amounts of data at lightning-fast speeds, but often can't travel more than a few thousand feet. Further, they often can't travel around corners or through obstacles, including trees and some types of glass.

What's next
In 2020, Verizon will likely follow the lead of T-Mobile and AT&T by expanding its 5G service into its lowband spectrum holdings. Doing so will allow Verizon to dramatically expand the reach of 5G across wide geographic areas due to the propagation characteristics of signals in such spectrum -- but the operator won't be able to offer speeds anywhere near the 1Gbit/s it routinely clocks on its mmWave 5G.

Verizon hasn't provided a timeline for when it might launch 5G in other spectrum bands, but executives from the operator have confirmed that -- at some unspecified point in the future -- Verizon will offer 5G across all its spectrum holdings.

More importantly, though, Verizon executives have made it clear that the operator is fully invested in the notion of providing 5G in mmWave spectrum, as it's the only way to reach the kinds of performance characteristics that Verizon has said sets 5G apart from 4G.

This argument potentially sets the stage for Verizon to continue to build out mmWave 5G across wide areas of urban America -- a daunting task considering the expense involved. Indeed, Verizon certainly appears to be planning to do so given that the operator has been purchasing additional 28GHz mmWave spectrum licenses in recent months.

However, Verizon has not disclosed any further buildout plans beyond launching 5G services in more than 30 US markets. It remains to be seen whether the operator will set further 5G buildout targets in 2020, or whether it will continue to quietly expand coverage in its existing cities.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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