Verizon turned on 5G in four more cities today. The company said select areas of Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, and Indianapolis will now be able to access Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network. These cities join Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, Providence and St. Paul as Verizon’s first 5G mobility cities.
But the company has come under some scrutiny since it rolled out 5G Home late last year and hasn’t said much about it since early 2019. And Verizon has also been kind of quiet on the 5G mobile front, other than announcements such as today’s about its latest 5G cities. The carrier did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.(**See update below for Verizon's comment.)
Verizon is using 28 GHz mmWave for its mobile 5G rollouts. The high-band spectrum works well for dense, urban areas. And in fact, Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service is available today mostly in such urban areas as public parks, college campuses and in stadiums. For example, Verizon’s 5G coverage includes parts of Millennium Park in Chicago, The National Mall in Washington, D.C., and inside US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere, always one to have a critical comment about his competitors, said on T-Mobile’s recent earnings call: “People have said that we trash millimeter wave as an alternative for 5G, and that's absolutely not true. We have made fun of a millimeter-wave-only strategy. It won't work. Verizon's strategy will not work. It's fake. It was a first mover play. It would cost $1.5 trillion to do, and they're kind of dead in the water without a strategy right now.”
Verizon reports its earnings tomorrow, and its CEO Hans Vestberg is likely to counter such criticism. In its previous earnings call in April, Vestberg said Verizon is leading on mmWave. “I think that no one else in the whole industry knows more than Verizon about it,” said Vestberg. “We've been onto this for two years, and what we have seen on it, it's a good strategy. And topping that… the dynamics sort of spectrum sharing will be the next step for us to see that we have all the assets to deploy our strategy on 5G.”
Verizon has talked enthusiastically about dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), a technology it’s working on with Ericsson. DSS allows operators to dynamically allocate some of their existing 4G LTE spectrum to 5G and use existing radios (as long as they are 5G NR-capable) to deliver 5G services by deploying a software upgrade.
Bill Ho, founder and principal analyst with 556 Ventures, noticed that a Verizon support page says that the Verizon CDMA network will remain available as-is until December 31, 2020.
Ho said in a call with FierceWireless, “It’s the most public thing they’ve said about it.” He said that it portends that Verizon’s decommissioning of its remaining CDMA spectrum is real, and that they will be able to use that spectrum for LTE and 5G. And that additional spectrum will also then be available for DSS.
“It’s important in a data-consumption world where you need a lot of spectrum,” said Ho. “Machine-to-machine and legacy voice customers that are using 3G and CDMA – that can get freed up for 4G and 5G.”
Verizon’s mobile 5G
In addition to today's announcement of four more 5G cities, Verizon says it plans to launch its 5G service in a total of more than 30 cities this year including Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Houston, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Phoenix, San Diego, and Salt Lake City.
Customers can access the 5G network with one of five devices: the LG V50 ThinQ 5G, the moto z3 and z4 combined with the 5G moto mod, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G or the Inseego MiFi M1000.
The carrier initially charged a $10 premium for 5G service on its Unlimited plans, but the fee is currently being waived.
Update 2pm ET 7/31/19: Verizon sent the following comments after this article was published:
1) Regarding 5G Home, when we announced our plan to deploy 5G in more than 30 U.S. markets in 2019, we also said we will rollout 5G Home broadband internet service in some of these markets as well. We haven't announced which ones yet but we currently are still selling 5G Home in the initial 5G Home markets which include certain areas of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento.
2) We began announcing the sunset of our CDMA network years ago. We now have over 99% of our traffic running on our 4G LTE network and as customers have organically moved off of CDMA and onto the LTE network, we have decommissioned the CDMA equipment and have repurposed spectrum to LTE services. We are giving the few customers still using CDMA services through the end of 2020 to arrange for alternate devices and are working with those customers to accommodate their needs.