Verizon on Wednesday said that it will start offering “pre-commercial” 5G service to certain customers in 11 US cities sometime in the first half of 2017.
The affected cities include Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Washington D.C., Sacramento, Ann Arbor, Bernardsville, NJ, and Brockton, MA.
Verizon says it will choose customers for its pilot 5G program “based on their proximity to newly built [5G equipment] sites which will evolve throughout the year.” The company says it expects the number of pilot customers to be in the “mid-hundreds.”
Verizon initially said it had begun testing its version of 5G service last July, but Wednesday’s announcement edges toward the first time the company will make it available to the public in some fashion.
Rival carrier AT&T announced in January it would begin limited trials of its 5G service later this year, too.
We say “its version of 5G” above because there is no universally accepted standard for 5G technology yet. It’s generally assumed that the next-generation service will include faster speeds than today’s LTE standard and aim to better connect the Internet of Things. The FCC has started the process of making wireless spectrum available for “5G” use, too. But it’s still more of a concept than a finished product right now.
What Verizon is calling 5G here is a preliminary standard it helped develop as part of its Verizon 5G Technical Forum, a group formed in 2015 that includes chipset and software makers like Cisco, Ericsson, Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, LG, and Nokia. That tech aims to provide faster and smoother connections than 4G either way, but Verizon is hoping its moves here can influence what genuine 5G might look like.
Verizon says that its Forum partners are “well on their way” to commercialising chipsets and devices that will use its spec, but it has previously noted that it may have to update the 5G equipment it plans to deploy to adhere to the eventual universal standard.
The other big caveat here is that the program won’t include truly mobile internet service. Instead, it will aim to provide a fixed wireless replacement for home and office connections that may rely on cables. Verizon did not specify how fast its service’s speeds would be.
Nevertheless, while we’re still years away from true 5G being a part of everyday life, the announcement is another reminder that the day is coming in some form or another.