Verizon plans 5G trial service in 11 cities this year

The pre-commercial service for selected customers will connect homes with high-speed wireless

Lab tests of pre-standard 5G wireless with multi-gigabit speeds are evolving into trial services that users can actually enjoy in the real world – though not necessarily while walking around with a smartphone.

Verizon said Wednesday it will launch pre-commercial 5G service in 11 markets around the U.S. by the middle of this year, joining rival AT&T in aggressively deploying the future technology.

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, carriers are expected to announce more upcoming 5G trials.

The Verizon trial, planned for select users in cities including Atlanta, Denver, Miami, and Seattle, will use fixed wireless equipment for home broadband instead of mobile networks for roving devices. But it’s an early use of millimeter-wave frequencies that carriers say they will need for future high-speed mobile broadband.

Verizon hasn’t said how fast the 5G trial networks will be, but a Verizon video about tests of the technology showed speed readouts over 3Gbps.

AT&T, which has already announced a trial of 5G service for business use at an Intel facility in Austin, Texas, also plans to launch fixed-wireless 5G for homes in Austin and Indianapolis later this year. In those trials, also for select customers, AT&T will stream DirecTV service to antennas on users’ homes.

The full specification for 5G is not expected to be finished until at least next year. But wireless equipment vendors and service providers have been running limited tests and trials using elements of the emerging technology for more than a year. Some have shown speeds in the tens of gigabits per second. In addition to high speed, other 5G goals include lower latency and longer battery life.

Verizon says the pre-commercial service will use spectrum around 28GHz, one of the millimeter-wave bands many companies are considering for 5G. These frequencies, much higher than the ones used for cellular service today, need a new generation of radios and antennas to overcome what would naturally be very short range.

Aiming those signals at a stationary antenna on a house is easier than tracking a mobile device with a beam, something vendors and carriers are also working on.

Verizon’s fixed wireless technology is part of a set of open specifications for 5G that the company developed along with partners in the Verizon 5G Technology Forum. That group includes Ericsson, Intel, Qualcomm, and Samsung.

Other cities involved in the Verizon trial will include Houston, Dallas, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C.

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