October 1, 2018updated 03 Jan 2019 3:52pm

World’s first commercial 5G network goes live

By Lucy Ingham

Telecoms giant Verizon has turned on what is believed to be the world’s first commercial 5G network.

From today consumers in four US cities, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento, will be able to access broadband via Verizon’s 5G Home network.

This is the first time customers are able to use 5G technology, a feat achieved by leapfrogging the rollout of standard 5G network hardware system, which is set to be introduced in the next few years. Instead Verizon is offering the technology through its own network standard and systems, developed with several technology partners.

“The world’s first commercial 5G service is here,” said Ronan Dunne, president of Verizon Wireless.

“We’ve formed incredible partnerships with many of the world’s leading technology companies, the international technical standards bodies, public officials, developers and our own customers to drive the 5G ecosystem forward, faster than most had predicted. And now, actual customers. It’s been an incredible journey…and we’re just at the starting line.”

Is the world’s first commercial 5G network really 5G?

However, while the move looks set to cement Verizon as a key player in the increasingly competitive North American 5G market, the company’s offering has drawn criticism for not being the fully fledged 5G promised by the industry.

This is not to say it isn’t fast: customers will be able to get speeds of around 300 Mbps without data caps, which alongside perks such as hardware freebies and initial discounts will likely lure in early adopters.

But what it doesn’t offer is many of the knock-on revolutions 5G has long been promised to provide. Most notable in this area are advances in the IoT space and technologies such as driverless vehicles, which will need the full 5G rollout to be achieved.

In this sense what Verizon is offering is merely a faster version of existing tech rather than the full transformative final product.

A key battle in the 5G arms race

However, while this is by no means a full and final version of 5G, Verizon’s 5G home is a key step for the company in order to establish its place as a key player in the field.

According to GlobalData Technology, there is currently an arms race for 5G in the North American market, and it’s clear that Verizon is doing all it can to make its name synonymous with the technology for consumers before other providers can firm up their position.

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