Verizon opens 5G-enabled innovation lab in New York’s Silicon Alley

Verizon sign from MWCA
The 5G-enabled lab space was created through a unique partnership with Alley, a co-working community that collocates startups, accelerators and entrepreneurs.

Verizon is using its Intelligent Edge Network to power a 5G-enabled innovation lab in New York’s Silicon Alley where startups and academics can go to develop new use cases.

Dubbed the Verizon Open Innovation Lab, the space is described as the world’s first 5G-powered co-working experience where participants can work with Verizon’s product, innovation and venture teams to advance new technology ideas, concepts and solutions.

The launch is a partnership with New York City’s Alley, a community that collocates startups, accelerators and entrepreneurs. Verizon plans on offering access to dedicated space in Alley to select participants who are looking to explore test cases that benefit from the speed and latency characteristics of 5G; Verizon points out in its announcement that the technology is based on “precommercial” 5G technology.

“5G brings an entirely new and unique array of benefits and possibilities compared to previous wireless technologies,” said Toby Redshaw, Verizon's SVP of strategy, innovation and product development, in a press release. “One of the best ways to unleash the true possibilities of 5G is by getting it into the hands of innovators and visionaries. We see Alley as a logical first place to do just that.”

Verizon is kicking off trials with eight startups and academic partners, including pioneers in augmented reality and multiuser virtual reality. Participating startups and academics include Arvizio, BriefCam, Collinear, Holojam, Mapfit, NGCodec, NYU Future Reality Lab and Columbia University’s Graphics and User Interfaces Lab.

Meanwhile, Verizon is on track to launch a 5G broadband offering in 2018 in three to five cities, with Sacramento being the only one announced thus far. 5G mobility testing will start in earnest in 2018; the operator did some initial 5G mobility testing before the Indy 500 in May.

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Verizon, which wants to use 5G to deliver superfast internet to homes and businesses instead of fiber, shared a peek at some of the innovation it’s done in terms of getting signals to pass through windows—just one of the challenges associated with millimeter wave spectrum, which is part of the spectrum bands being teed up for 5G.

RELATED: Editor’s Corner—Verizon says its new indoor/outdoor prototype 5G modem solves one of the biggest 28 GHz problems

At the Mobile World Congress Americas show in September, the operator showed off a solution, developed with partner Nokia Bell Labs, that consists of a two-part 5G modem: One part sits outside a user’s window, and the other part sits on the other side of the window. The two parts are connected by magnets or some other method (in Verizon’s demo they were taped to a window) in a way that ensures the two halves line up exactly.

The operator didn’t reveal everything in its “secret sauce,” but Verizon was able to transmit a 28 GHz 5G signal from a transmitter to a receiver on the outside of the window, and then through the window to the internet port on the inside. That prototype modem is just one potential solution, and the design might not make its way into Verizon’s eventual commercial product, or it might be used only in certain parts of the U.S. where UV window coating is common, like in the Southwest.