Verizon Declares 5G War on AT&T, Promises 30-Plus Cities This Year

It’s been a big week for Verizon’s 5G ambitions. Yesterday (Feb. 20), Big Red said it would be the first to offer the 5G version of Samsung’s Galaxy S10 later this spring, before the phone makes its way to other wireless carriers. Verizon’s following that up with a promise that it will bring its 5G network to more than 30 cities before the end of the 2019.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg speaks about 5G at CES in January. (Credit: Tom's Guide)

(Image credit: Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg speaks about 5G at CES in January. (Credit: Tom's Guide))

Though Verizon didn’t say which cities are on its list to get 5G this year, it did make clear that it was talking about its new 5G Ultra Wideband service, powered by millimeter wave spectrum. That’s different from the 5G Home fixed broadband the company launched in cities like Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento late last year.

A test of the carrier’s progress in true 5G speeds was displayed at CES this January, where download rates of 900 Mbps were shown off. Full speeds of the standard are eventually expected to reach into gigabit levels.

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Since the millimeter waves that wireless 5G requires can’t travel as far as the spectrums used in 4G and 3G, true mobile wireless 5G will require tons and tons of new small cells to be placed throughout cities closer to where people are using the network. Deployment will be a big job, and it’s unclear how well covered the 30-plus cities that Verizon is promising to launch in will be. But since Verizon's chief network engineering officer Nicki Palmer described the carrier's progress as "full speed ahead" late last year, it seems the company is moving forward with its 5G plans.

Beyond the Galaxy S10 5G, Verizon is also set to offer a 5G Moto Mod for the Moto Z3, which is available exclusively through the carrier.

At this point, all four of the major carriers have said they are working on 5G networks. AT&T, slightly ahead of the game, is already live with next-gen wireless in 12 cities. It's pledged to bring 5G to at least 9 more cities this year, bringing its total to more than 20 cities. That’s not with the controversial 5G Evolution logo it’s brought to its phones that are still running 4G, but actual millimeter-wave wireless. Though select small businesses are testing the tech for the carrier, consumer devices to run on its real 5G network won’t be available until sometime later this year.

T-Mobile, like Verizon, has also thrown out a “30 cities” promise, saying last year that it’s started deploying equipment and that New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas and Las Vegas will be the first to come online sometime this year.

Sprint has also been deploying equipment to build its 5G network, and it even placed what it’s calling the “world's first 5G data call” on one of its towers in San Diego this January. That same month, the company promised to launch a 5G phone from Samsung this summer — let’s assume that’s the S10 once Verizon’s exclusive period ends — and rumor has it that LG’s 5G-ready V50 could be introduced at this month’s Mobile World Congress as a Sprint exclusive.

Daniel Bean is a freelance writer with years of experience whose articles have appeared in Tom's Guide. He has previously worked for LinkedIn, Yahoo News, and the Observer, as well as TripleByte, Circa, Inverse, CBS, and ABC. Currently, he is full-time content lead for Mixpanel's blog, The Signal, writing about innovators and analytics.