Mobility

Verizon launches first commercial 5G network, paving way for smart city growth

The service, called 5G Home, could help streamline the adoption of smart city tech and industrial automation.

This week, Verizon launched the first commercial 5G network in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, CA, marking a major step toward bringing the technology into the mainstream.

The commercial 5G network, known as 5G Home, is built on Verizon's Ultra Wideband 5G Network. It provides 5G broadband internet service for residents in parts of the four cities, representing the next generation of home broadband internet service.

5G will boost speeds for consumers, although there is a limitation based on what connection is available from the network into the home. There will be a lower latency as well, said Ed Chan, Verizon senior vice president and chief technology architect.

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The next step, which will be when Verizon changes how services are delivered directly to the home, will result in the most noticeable reduction in latency for the end user. Verizon 5G Home customers can expect typical network speeds of about 300 Mbps, and peak speeds of nearly 1 Gbps, depending on location, Chan said.

The network also paves the way for mobile 5G, which is considered necessary for fast adoption of smart city technology. 5G matters for a smart city because the low latency will connect users with traffic lights for real-time traffic management, Chan said.

During MWCA in Los Angeles in September 2018, Verizon's Sean Harrington, vice president of city solutions at Verizon, said, "We're really excited about the opportunity to use 5G, in particular for use cases in transportation and public safety." He said that transportation allows an "opportunity to collect information about what's happening around intersections. So, the detection of people and vehicles, and feeding that information in real time, in low-latency, so single, millisecond latency, back into vehicles, and the signal timing system."

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5G Home establishes a temporary 5G TF specification. In June 2018, the industry completed the standard for global 5G, which is 3GPP 5G NR. And while new network equipment, devices, and chipsets can be developed to operate on the 3GPP standard, Verizon created the temporary standard to get on board more quickly.

"At this point, we think that this all sets a foundation for the mobility services that all the rest of the world, not just Verizon, will launch. We still think that we will be first on that mobility launch," Chan said.

While the 5G TF specification is temporary, most of the infrastructure will be reusable to run the NR specification as soon as it's available.

"A bunch of the radios are actually going to have software upgradeable to actually run the NR specification right after when we're ready," Chan said. "We also have spectrum depth enough that we can even run the these network in parallel to our NR system at the same time because we have enough spectrum to do so. That's the magic of millimeter wave, that there is such a large amount of spectrum that we can actually use differently."

As for the timeframe, Chan said, "All of our suppliers are working very hard right now to create the software. Depending on which supplier you're talking about, so it's in effect available," he added. "Now, in this particular case where we have launched commercial service, we're not going to disrupt the customer. In this case it's going to be very specific to when the customer wants to do so."

Other features of mobile 5G include the ability to treat everyday glasses as augmented reality (AR) devices, and to improve the experience for gaming.

"Imagine augmented reality can truly happen where either through your device or through your glasses, that you can actually see it. That would be far more productive," Chan said. "Since I already wear glasses, if my glasses can actually become my screen, I don't need to carry all these other screens around with me. My entirety of the 360 degrees of my surrounding is actually my workspace. That would be super powerful in terms of what I can do."

The enterprise will also benefit, because 5G will improve industrial automation. "For example, robots today are connected, and if they're stuck in one spot, how would they do what they need to do?" Chan said. "Imagine those robotics can now become mobile and they can float around the manufacturing floor. I think you're gonna see how many tasks can get done in a very different way."

Verizon is also working with its 5G Labs in New York City and recently announced an expansion into Boston, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, and Washington, DC to work with startups and universities such as Columbia and New York University.

Also see

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Image: Verizon

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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