Verizon has flipped the switch on wireless 5G in Chicago and Minnesota, launching the service a week earlier than it had previously announced it would.
The move, which caught many by surprise, will give the customers who have 5G equipped phones access to wireless service with speeds of up to 1 Gps, roughly 10 times the peak speed of 4G.
“Verizon customers will be the first in the world to have the power of 5G in their hands,” said Hans Vestberg, Verizon’s chairman and chief executive officer in a statement.
The number of people who can actually take advantage of that service will be limited at first. Only one phone on the market—the Motorola Z3—supports 5G. Later this year, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G model, which will be exclusive to Verizon customers for a short period, will join that club.
The 5G service launched today will be limited to certain areas of the cities, Verizon warned.
In Chicago, 5G coverage is concentrated in areas of the West Loop and the South Loop, around landmarks like Union Station, Willis Tower, The Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park and The Chicago Theatre. Customers also have 5G Ultra Wideband service in the Verizon store on The Magnificent Mile and throughout The Gold Coast, Old Town and River North.
In Minneapolis, service is concentrated in the Downtown area, including Downtown West and Downtown East, as well as inside and around U.S. Bank Stadium, the site of this weekend’s NCAA men’s basketball Final Four. Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband service is also available around landmarks like the Minneapolis Convention Center, the Minneapolis Central Library, the Mill City Museum, Target Center and First Avenue venues, The Commons, areas of Elliot Park and in the Verizon store in The Mall of America.
Verizon’s launch comes as the carrier feuds with AT&T, which has launched a service it calls “5G E” that is not actually connected to a 5G network. The company ultimately plans to roll out 5G mobile service to 30 U.S. cities. AT&T did launch a mobile 5G device to customers in December, though it came with some caveats, such as the required use of a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.
Late last year, Verizon launched 5G home service in four cities, testing the technology in smaller environments.
Customers who want the 5G service will pay a $10 per month premium on their unlimited data plans, the company announced last month.