Verizon begins rolling out its 5G wireless network for smartphones

Key Points
  • Verizon is activating its 5G mobile network in Chicago and Minneapolis.
  • Customers can expect speeds up to 1 Gbps, which is about 10 times faster than you might normally get.
  • Only one phone supports the network right now.
Verizon begins rollout of 5G cell service in Minneapolis, Chicago
Verizon begins rollout of 5G cell service in Minneapolis, Chicago

Verizon on Wednesday announced that it has turned on its 5G wireless network in two markets — Chicago and Minneapolis — that will work with the next generation of connected gadgets. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg told CNBC that the company will activate 30 additional markets this year.

Vestberg added that Verizon is unlikely to see any impact on revenue from people who upgrade to new 5G phones until around 2021.

This network complements Verizon's existing "5G Home" service which launched in October in select areas and is a wireless alternative to a traditional cable-based home internet connection, but does not work far beyond the walls of your home.

Verizon said the wireless network will give customers access to peak speeds up to 1 Gbps. That's about 10 times faster than you might traditionally find on the LTE connection you have now. Put plainly: You'll be able to download movies in seconds instead of minutes.

Only a select number of phones will support the network at first. Samsung will launch a Galaxy S10 5G model later this quarter that will be exclusive to Verizon to start. AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint will begin to sell it in the second half of the year. That leaves the Motorola Z3 as the only phone that supports Verizon's new 5G network right now, and it requires a separate accessory to work on it.

The Motorola Z3 costs $240 and requires a $200 "moto mod" to work on the network.

T-Mobile and Sprint are planning to roll out 5G later this year but neither of the companies, which are still in the midst of a merger, have activated 5G yet. The first Sprint 5G markets are Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and Kansas City in May followed by Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., sometime during the first half of the year. Devices from HTC and LG will support Sprint's 5G network.

AT&T's 5G+ network, the branding it's using for its 5G coverage, is available in 12 markets. The company says it will increase that coverage throughout the year. AT&T has been marketing its new network by switching on a new indicator on phones that says "5GE," but this does not actually add 5G service to the devices, which still operate at 4G speeds.

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