Wireless carriers have spent the past few years touting their expensive network upgrades with dramatically faster 5G technology. Now the first U.S. phone that’s 5G compatible has arrived—sort of.
Verizon and Motorola unveiled the new Moto Z3 on Thursday, hitting stores on August 16 at a price of $480. But all by itself, the new phone will still only connect to current 3G and 4G LTE networks. Coming next year, about when Verizon’s 5G mobile network is also ready, there will be an add-on module for the Z3 that includes a 5G-capable modem. The companies didn’t say how much the 5G “Moto mod” would cost.
Still, the device puts Motorola, now a unit of China’s Lenovo, ahead in the race to bring 5G phones to market. Rivals like Samsung and Apple haven’t unveiled 5G-capable models yet, but could do so over the next six months.
Meanwhile, Verizon (VZ) and rival carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are racing to offer 5G services. So far, Verizon has primarily focused on using 5G to offer fixed, home Internet and cable TV service. The carrier has announced pilot tests in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Houston so far this year, but hadn’t previously spoken much about 5G for mobile phones. But new CEO Hans Vestberg took over this week from Lowell McAdam with a renewed emphasis on expanding Verizon’s network advantages via 5G.
“Verizon is the definitive leader in the development and deployment of 5G,” Nicola Palmer, Verizon’s head of wireless networks, said in a statement. “Our consistent and relentless focus on always delivering the best 4G network is the perfect foundation to bring 5G to market. As we like to say, we don’t wait for the future, we build it.”
The claim may draw debate from other companies. T-Mobile (TMUS) CEO John Legere this week repeated his company’s plans to start a 5G mobile network this year in 30 cities, starting with New York, LA, Dallas, and Las Vegas, expanding over time with nationwide 5G coverage in 2020.
“This network will utilize 600 megahertz and will harness 4G and 5G bandwidth simultaneously for dual connectivity and will be ready for the first 5G smartphones in 2019,” Legere said on a call with analysts on Wednesday. One rationale for merging with Sprint (S) is to speed up the deployment of 5G, Legere has also said.
AT&T (T), meanwhile, is on track to launch its 5G service in parts of 12 markets by the end of the year, the company said last month.