Verizon lights up 20th market as Des Moines gets 5G

Verizon
Verizon says its 5G Ultra Wideband service lets customers stream their favorite 4K videos with virtually no buffering, and video chat with almost no lag. (FierceWireless)

Verizon is singing the praises of 5G as it counts down to its target of having mobile 5G in 30 markets by the end of the year, announcing 20 thus far, and ticking more off as each day passes.

Yesterday, Verizon announced Los Angeles and today it’s Iowa’s capital city of Des Moines. Verizon is saving the coverage maps until Dec. 20, but similar to other markets where it’s using millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, the operator lists neighborhoods and specific venues that are covered with what it calls “5G Ultra Wideband.”

In the Des Moines market, the 5G service is coming available in parts of downtown, East Village and West Des Moines around landmarks such as the Iowa State Capitol, Hyvee Hall, Wells Fargo Arena, Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Principal Park, Jordan Creek Town Center and MercyOne West Des Moines.  

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In Los Angeles, its 5G service is coming available in parts of downtown, Chinatown, Del Rey and Venice around landmarks such as: Grand Park, Los Angeles Convention Center, Union Station, LA Live, Staples Center and Venice Beach Boardwalk.  

Notably, Verizon had 5G nodes at the LA Convention Center last year for the industry's Mobile World Congress Los Angeles trade show, but that wasn’t permanent. This year for MWC19 Los Angeles, Verizon had permanent nodes throughout the center and in the surrounding area.

(Interestingly, Pivotal Commware, a start-up based in the Seattle area, did a demo at the Luxe Hotel during MWC-LA using a 28 GHz signal, showing how the 5G signal from outside could be brought indoors. It's one example of facilitating Gigabit speeds for fixed wireless access (FWA) indoors. Verizon's 5G service for FWA is dubbed 5G Home, and it's available in a handful of markets.) 

RELATED: Verizon tweaks 5G Home, puts 5G repeaters on road map

Nobody’s naming names, but Verizon executives have said they’re looking at things like new repeater technology to bring the 5G signal indoors, and more on that front is expected in 2020. 5G distributed antenna systems (DAS) technology isn’t really here yet either, but more on that can be expected in 2020, according to Nicki Palmer, Verizon’s senior vice president of technology and product development, in a recent interview.

Palmer also reinforced Verizon’s strategy of using mmWave to make 5G a significantly different experience from 4G. With 4G LTE, Verizon used its 700 MHz spectrum to build out coverage nationwide. With 5G, it’s got huge swaths of mmWave spectrum at its disposal, largely thanks to acquisitions like that of StraightPath but also through mmWave auctions, the most recent one ongoing at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

T-Mobile in particular has poked holes in Verizon’s strategy, saying it’s only covering hot spots with mmWave while T-Mobile is using its 600 MHz spectrum to cover 200 million PoPs with 5G. To that, Palmer said she wasn’t there to bash T-Mobile, but it was a “welcome to the party” kind of response because Verizon's been using lower band spectrum for years for LTE. When 5G customers leave Verizon’s Ultra Wideband coverage area, their 5G-enabled devices revert to the LTE network.

Palmer also said the carrier is on track to hit all 30 markets with its 5G by the end of the year, a plan that CEO Hans Vestberg reiterated at last week’s UBS investor conference.

Besides Des Moines and LA, here’s a list of the areas where Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service is now available: Boston, Houston, Sioux Falls, Dallas, Omaha, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Providence, St. Paul, Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, Washington D.C., Phoenix, Boise, Panama City and New York City.

Other cities where it plans to have 5G access by the end of this year are Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, Little Rock, Memphis and Salt Lake City. More will be announced before the end of the year, which is only 14 days away. 

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