Verizon is expanding its 5G home broadband network, with a twist. The wireless giant said Monday it will expand its service to Chicago on Thursday, joining parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento and making it the fifth city to get home internet from its 5G network.
Chicago's network, however, will be unlike the. Unlike those four, the new network will run off the same 5G technology the company uses for its mobile network (something called 5G NR), where the original cities use a network (known as 5G TF) that's incompatible with the one it's deploying around the country for mobile devices.
"We've always talked about how we're going to build one network for both mobile and home," Brian Higgins, Verizon's vice president of device and consumer product marketing, told CNET, noting that this expansion is something the company is "going to take into 2020 and beyond."
With the new 5G Home network, those in the downtown Chicago area who get the company's mobile 5G network can sign up for the internet service for $50 per month for Verizon wireless subscribers, with the company including taxes, fees and a new Wi-Fi 6 mesh router that has Amazon's Alexa built-in and that can double as a smart speaker. Those who don't have Verizon for cellphone service will pay $70 per month.
A mini extender that plugs into the wall is also included in the box to help cover the entire home with Wi-Fi, while an additional extender that resembles the Alexa-enabled main router-speaker combo will cost $299. Additional mini extenders can be purchased for $99.
An app for Android or iOS will guide you through the setup process, helping you choose the best place for the router to receive the 5G signal without having to call and arrange for a visit from a Verizon technician. Phones on Verizon's millimeter-wave network can struggle indoors, but the router comes with an antenna that can be separated from it and placed instead on the outside of a window to help bring the 5G service inside.
If you need help, or if you need to install an antenna to the roof of your building to catch a signal, Verizon says it will provide a technician free of charge.
Wondering if you can get 5G in your home? Head to a Verizon store or Verizon's 5G Home website where you'll be able to enter your address to see if 5G is available in your area.
Verizon says download speeds on the service will range from 300Mbps up to 1Gbps. As with most of its mobile 5G cities, however, uploads, for now, will be done on the company's 4G LTE network. Higgins said the switch of uploads to the 5G network is planned for 2020. Latency will also improve next year as Verizon switches the uploads to 5G.
The company plans to turn on additional 5G Home cities in the future, and Higgins said it will migrate those in the first four 5G Home cities to the modern, mobile network in the second half of next year.
Unlike with the mobile network, there are no data caps for the 5G Home service.
To persuade people to switch from their cable providers, Verizon is including three months of service for free and throwing in the choice of a free Amazon Fire TV Cube or Fire TV Stick 4K, or its own Android-powered Stream TV 4K streaming box. It's also including a free month of YouTube TV.
Verizon's mobile 5G network is live in 13 cities today and is expected to be in more than 30 cities this year. The company is focusing the 5G Home rollout on areas that don't already get its Fios high-speed broadband, Higgins said.
Those with Fios, however, will be getting a Wi-Fi 6 router similar to the 5G Home router in the future, though Higgins wouldn't say exactly when the upgrade would arrive.