Verizon Just One-Upped AT&T in the Race to True Mobile 5G

Verizon has announced it has completed the first test data transmission using its standards-based 5G network and the Moto Z3 Moto Mod accessory.

A prototype 5G Moto Mod attached to a Moto Z3. (Credit: Tom's Guide)

(Image credit: A prototype 5G Moto Mod attached to a Moto Z3. (Credit: Tom's Guide))

The test consisted of some web browsing and video calls, and according to Verizon was conducted in Providence, R.I. using the very same hardware consumers will be able to purchase next year when the 5G Moto Mod goes on sale.

AT&T announced it completed a similar test using production-ready gear a few weeks ago, though that involved a 5G hotspot produced by Netgear, as that carrier has decided to initiate its mobile 5G rollout with hotspots rather than standalone phones or accessories. Today, AT&T CFO John Stephens warned investors that it doesn't expect 5G to pick up steam until 2020, per Reuters — lending some context to its more cautious approach.

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As for Verizon's Moto Mod, it contains Qualcomm's X50 modem to pick up 5G signals, as well as an X24 modem for LTE. There's also a built-in battery powering those radios, which means that we could be looking at quite an expensive add-on here when all is said and done. Verizon hasn't announced pricing for the Mod yet, nor has it shed light on how its first mobile 5G plans will look.

Right now, the only device confirmed to support the 5G Mod is the $480 Moto Z3 — a phone Verizon launched earlier in the fall that represents a modest upgrade over last year's Moto Z2 Force. It's powered by the same Snapdragon 835 chipset, but features a larger AMOLED display with smaller bezels.

The Moto Z3. (Credit: Tom's Guide)

(Image credit: The Moto Z3. (Credit: Tom's Guide))

At the Moto Z3's reveal event in August, a Verizon representative told Tom's Guide that the carrier is working alongside Motorola to bring compatibility with the 5G Mod to the Z2 Force and potentially even the first-generation Moto Z. However, no progress has been announced on that front yet.

Additionally, Verizon stated at the time that the 5G Mod would be available beginning in the first quarter of 2019. Interestingly though, today's press release bears no mention of a prospective release date, or even a vague ballpark estimate of when we can expect the product to drop. That's a bit concerning for anyone who picked up a Moto Z3 in the hopes of getting a 5G-ready phone within the first six months of the device's lifespan.

We still could see a 5G-capable phone launch in that timeframe, though might not be from Verizon. Sprint said earlier this year that it was partnering with LG for an exclusive 5G phone on its network, slated to arrive in the first half of next year. There could also be a 5G-enabled variant of Samsung's Galaxy S10, too.

Adam Ismail is a staff writer at Jalopnik and previously worked on Tom's Guide covering smartphones, car tech and gaming. His love for all things mobile began with the original Motorola Droid; since then he’s owned a variety of Android and iOS-powered handsets, refusing to stay loyal to one platform. His work has also appeared on Digital Trends and GTPlanet. When he’s not fiddling with the latest devices, he’s at an indie pop show, recording a podcast or playing Sega Dreamcast.