What  
is 5G?

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1G

The first analog cell
phones enter the world.

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2G

New features like SMS and voicemail come to mobile handsets.

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3G

Higher data transfer rates enable mobile web browsing, image sharing and GPS location-tracking.

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4G

Broadband delivers deep web functionality to our smartphones.

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology. But users will know it as one of the fastest, most robust technologies the world has ever seen.

That means quicker downloads, outstanding network reliability and a spectacular impact on how we live, work and play. The connectivity benefits of 5G will make businesses more efficient and give consumers access to more information faster than ever before. Super-connected autonomous cars, smart communities, industrial IoT, immersive education—they all will rely on 5G.'“5G has the potential to join a very exclusive club—the handful of technologies throughout history that transform industries across every sector of the economy … redefining work, elevating living standards, and having a profound and sustained impact on our global economic growth.”

- Ronan Dunne, Executive Vice President and Group President, Verizon Wireless.

Verizon is working tirelessly to roll out 5G on a massive scale. But what exactly is 5G? How will it work? How fast is it, really? And how will it change people’s lives? We answer those questions, and more, below.

What's the technology behind 5G?

To understand 5G, it’s helpful to understand what came before it. Broadly, the first generation of mobile technology, 1G, was about voice. The ability to use a phone in a car, or anywhere else, really took root here. The advent of 2G introduced a short-messaging layer—pieces of which can still be seen in today’s texting features. The move to 3G provided the essential network speeds for smartphones. And 4G, with its blazing data-transfer rates, gave rise to many of the connected devices and services that we rely on and enjoy today.

A discussion around 5G technology is really a discussion around delivering life-changing technologies through next-generation networks. And Verizon has the engineering experience, deep fiber assets, wireless millimeter wave spectrum and partnerships to move huge amounts of data at unimaginable speeds.

This is all predicated on work we began years ago to “densify” our 4G LTE network with small cell sites in high traffic areas—places like shopping centers and college campuses, as well as downtown areas. Thanks to Verizon engineers’ groundwork, we will be able to introduce 5G faster and more efficiently.

Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband has potential to revolutionize industries and provide immediate impact for customers. In 2017 and early 2018, we conducted field trials in 11 markets nationwide—among them Ann Arbor, MI, Sacramento, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston—and they exceeded our expectations for how the technology would perform.

Bottom line: Much of the pre-positioning for 5G Ultra Wideband is already done, including access to the radio waves, fiber and small cells—all of which will make the installation of 5G network equipment faster, and bring next-generation technology to our customers sooner.

When and where will 5G be available?

Verizon turned on 5G Home, the world’s first 5G network, on October 1, 2018, in certain parts of Houston, Sacramento, Los Angeles and Indianapolis. Next stop: Panama City, FL.

As part of our 5G residential broadband service—available for just $50 per month to our existing wireless customers—Verizon is bundling YouTube TV, with its 60-plus live TV channels, and Apple TV 4K, streaming thousands of movies and TV shows from iTunes, Netflix and Prime Video. The first three months of these premium streaming services are also being delivered free.

“The cornerstone of our strategy is to provide our customers with the best network experience. That strategy has served us well, and has led the competition to play catch-up. 5G is no different.”

– Nicki Palmer, Chief Network Officer, Verizon Wireless

We are taking a progressive approach to rolling out 5G, with plans to expand both residential broadband and mobile deployments in 2019 and beyond. The network ecosystem is developing quickly, and we’re working with partners and start-ups to discover new use cases and opportunities every day.

How fast will 5G be?

5G represents a massive upscale of network technology. It will provide data transfer rates many times faster than a blink of an eye, high bandwidth and greater opportunities for connectivity and reliability.

One way to quantify the difference is in terms of download speeds. 5G will deliver speeds roughly 20 times faster than what is possible with 4G. Over Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband network, latency could drop into the single milliseconds, making lag times nearly impossible to detect. Data moves so quickly on 5G that Dunne has argued this technological breakthrough will usher in a Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“5G isn’t just another iteration of wireless innovation,” he says. “Just as the next generation of the television industry reinvented content based on the unique properties of the medium itself, the potential of the fifth generation of wireless technology demands that we fundamentally rethink what can be done on a wireless platform.”

Thanks to its greater data transfer speeds, 5G will enable even more technology to connect, leading the Internet of Things to thrive on a truly massive scale. Today, there are some 8.4 billion connected “things” in use—up 31% from 2016. That number will grow to more than 20.4 billion by 2020. With such staggering demands on network bandwidth, 5G helps ensure that everything that should connect, can connect.

What will 5G be used for?

A more appropriate question might be, “What couldn’t 5G be used for?” Rich, complex information will be freed to move at scarcely imaginable speeds. Those speeds, combined with lowered latency, will have far-reaching effects on every sector of the economy.

AR and VR applications can work seamlessly. Industrial machinery and robotics can be controlled remotely. Feature-length HD movies can be downloaded faster than you can read this sentence.

“By 2035, 5G will enable $12.3 trillion of global economic output and support 22 million jobs worldwide. Much of that growth will come from the digitization of transportation, agriculture, manufacturing and other physical industries.” 

– Ronan Dunne, Executive Vice President and Group President, Verizon Wireless

In a 5G-powered tomorrow, entire supply chains can be fundamentally reshaped. With its gigabit speeds and unprecedented response times, 5G can be thought of as the “secret sauce” that will make driverless cars, cloud-connected traffic control and other applications that depend on instantaneous response and data analysis live up to their potential. The possibilities are limitless.

Our work  
on 5G

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At Verizon, we don’t wait for the future. We build it. That’s why Verizon built its own 5G technology to accelerate testing and drive the development of a worldwide 5G standard. And we continue to work with our other technology partners to further advance 5G technology and reach important milestones on the path to full deployment—both in the lab and, most importantly, in the real world where it matters most.