Verizon to double the number of cities with its 5G mobile service this year

Verizon plans to double the number of cities covered by its superfast 5G wireless network by the end of the year while expanding coverage in the areas where it already has service.

The company said on Thursday that it hopes to offer 5G for mobile customers in 60 cities (up from 31 at the end of 2019) and 10 cities for home 5G Internet service (up from five). The carrier did not name the new cities.

“We have the opportunity to continue our journey to be the leader on 5G,” Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said at a meeting with investors in New York on Thursday. “We’re not only expanding markets, we’re also expanding coverage in all the markets.”

Verizon is racing rivals AT&T and T-Mobile to expand across the country 5G coverage, which can provide downloads 10 to 100-times faster than the average speed of current 4G LTE networks. For now, their coverage is limited, with T-Mobile providing service in the largest geographic area, but at slower speeds that its rivals.

Each carrier is using a slightly different strategy for their initial 5G service offerings. Verizon is using high-frequency spectrum that offers super-fast download speeds but very limited coverage. T-Mobile is so far using lower frequencies to provide broad coverage but with much slower downloads. Meanwhile, AT&T is using a hybrid approach, rolling out both types of 5G coverage in various cities.

But all three carriers will eventually converge and offer both types of 5G as their networks expand and more capable 5G phones are available. Currently, consumers get an uneven experience using 5G, Fortune found when reviewing the three carriers’ services.

As part of that convergence, Verizon wants to use a technology called dynamic spectrum sharing that will let it share lower frequencies for use with 4G and 5G phones at the same time from one cell site. That would let it cover far more territory, though with slower download speeds.

Rivals have said the gear isn’t ready yet, but Vestberg pushed back on Thursday. “This year we will launch nationwide 5G based on dynamic spectrum sharing,” he said. “We’re going to launch that when we think it’s commercially right, when we see enough handsets out in the market.”

The carrier’s mobile Internet service requires that customers upgrade to a 5G-compatible phone. Currently, Verizon only sells two 5G models, both with prices over $1,000. But the phone industry is coming out with many new 5G handsets, and, by the end of the year, Verizon plans to offer more than 20 models with prices as low as $600, the company said on Thursday.

Verizon doesn’t currently charge extra for 5G service, but only allows customers on its two higher-cost unlimited plans to access the super-fast network. One aim of the 5G rollout is convince more customers to upgrade to those more expensive plans, CEO Vestberg said. 

Verizon introduced home Internet service using 5G in 2018, but it has not expanded the program much since. It started in parts of Sacramento, Houston, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis. Last year, Verizon added parts of Chicago. By using 5G wireless, Verizon can provide Internet service without having to build costly wired infrastructure to each customer’s home.

Additionally on Thursday, Verizon said it would expand a partnership with Amazon that let app developers and other businesses use cloud computing servers to connect and send data over Verizon’s 5G network. By the end of the year, the allies hope to have 10 5G-enabled data centers open, up from one last year.

The carrier also said it would add five times as many smaller cell sites with 5G in 2020 than it has now, but didn’t offer an exact number.

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