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Verizon is flipping the switch on 5G service on April 11th for consumers in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis. No cell phones on the market are capable of handling the signal, but with a $350 snap-on attachment, owners of the Moto Z3 phone can make it work. Customers with the right hardware can try the company’s “5G Ultra Wideband” free for three months before the monthly fee of $10 kicks in. Samsung plans the delivery of the first 5G-equipped smartphones later this year.
It may sound outlandish that a carrier is offering a new level of service that most customers aren’t equipped to use, but Verizon is gambling that being first to market gives the company an advantage. Being first allows the carrier to set the expectation that consumers will pay for 5G access as a premium service, rather than a routine upgrade like 4G.
Consumers and corporations are eager for the high bandwidth service, but experts wonder if the new service will be affordable. The rollout is likely to take a few more years due to the cost of phone technology and the infrastructure investment required by carriers.
The higher frequency signals can move faster and carry enormous amounts of data without latency, delivering speeds as fast as 100x current 4G LTE. The ultrafast service has the potential to transform industries and is seen as revolutionary for technology applications like artificial intelligence, smart home devices, and self-driving cars. Streaming entertainment will grow by leaps and bounds, with larger libraries, more viewing options, and better search algorithms.
The major carriers like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon tested wireless hotspots in a few large cities this year, but April marks the first time the speedy service is available directly to consumers.
Hopefully, Congress will re-establish Net Neutrality before 5G is widespread so that innovation and growth aren’t hampered by restrictive bandwidth throttles.
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
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