Verizon shows off mobile 5G prototype smartphone

Verizon's 5G test device uses Qualcomm's modem. (Verizon)

Verizon announced that it completed a call with a 5G test smartphone on its commercial 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) network in Minneapolis. The company said the phone used Qualcomm’s integrated Snapdragon X50 5G modem and RF subsystem and Ericsson’s non-standalone Option 3x core, running on Verizon’s 39 GHz spectrum.

A Verizon representative said the device was built by Qualcomm.

The news is noteworthy considering that Verizon and the rest of the nation’s major wireless network operators are rushing to launch commercial mobile 5G services in the coming months, and a successful test call indicates that the efforts are proceeding. Indeed, this latest announcement builds on Verizon’s previous tests, including its over-the-air, end-to-end data transmission on a commercial 3GPP 5G NR network in Washington, D.C., using commercially deployed Nokia radio gear.

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The details contained in Verizon’s announcement today also offer a clearer picture of Verizon’s plans for mobile 5Gthe carrier has promised to launch fixed 5G later this year and then mobile 5G roughly six months after that. Specifically, Verizon said that the test used a commercial 5G NR network in Minneapolis, which likely indicates that Verizon is building a mobile 5G network in that city. That’s important considering Verizon has only named four 5G launch cities so far: Sacramento, Los Angeles, Houston and Indianapolis. (Though, to be clear, the carrier has said it will launched fixed wireless services in those cities by the end of this year; it has not yet named any mobile 5G markets).

A Verizon representative said that the company hasn't announced any 5G mobility markets, and continues to conduct testing.

Further, Verizon said that its 5G test call used the carrier’s 39 GHz spectrum. Verizon hasn’t commented much on its 5G spectrum strategy beyond stating that it can offer 1 Gbps fixed wireless internet connections in 28 GHz beyond 2,000 feet. That the carrier could use 39 GHz for mobile services is noteworthy.

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Verizon commands significant millimeter wave spectrum holdings in 39 GHz and 28 GHz. The carrier has not yet discussed whether it will launch 5G services in its lower spectrum bands, as T-Mobile has promised to do with its 600 MHz.

Verizon isn’t alone in discussing 5G smartphones. For example, AT&T has said it plans to offer a “puck” type of device when it launches mobile 5G services in a dozen cities later this year. The carrier also today announced the results of additional 5G testing. And Sprint and LG announced they’re building a 5G phone that the companies believe will be the nation’s first mobile 5G smartphone.

And T-Mobile's CTO tweeted that the company just today conducted a similar test call with Ericsson and Intel: 

Article updated Sept. 10 with additional information from Verizon and AT&T.