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With 5G, Verizon could be anyone's crazy-fast home broadband provider

Verizon CEO says there's no reason why FiOS, now only available in the Northeast, couldn't go nationwide with a fixed wireless service.


Verizon has set up a 5G trial in its Basking Ridge, New Jersey, headquarters.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A majority of the nation has probably never heard of FiOS, Verizon's broadband and video service. With super-fast 5G wireless technology, that could change.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam entertained the idea that FiOS, which is only available in the Northeast, could go nationwide. But instead of a physical line going into your house, the connection would be via the next-generation 5G technology the company is developing.

"I don't know why there would be any limitation on where we can take it," McAdam said at an investor conference on Tuesday. The event was webcast.

Verizon going nationwide with an alternative broadband option would shake up the market in regions where there are few options for Internet service. It could be an answer to connecting rural areas that have no high-speed access. Still, don't hold your breath for the service to show up in your neighborhood anytime soon -- the carriers are just starting to test out the technology.

The early results are promising. 5G will deliver speeds that are hundreds of times faster than your current cable or DSL connection. During CNET's visit to Verizon's Basking Ridge, New Jersey, headquarters in February, the company demonstrated a connection speed of 3.77 gigabits a second, or enough to download the entire "Simpsons" series -- nearly 600 high-definition episodes -- in about half an hour.

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The ultimate promise of 5G is to have that super-fast connection everywhere you go, known as true mobile broadband. But most in the industry believe that won't occur until 2020, when the mobile industry settles on consistent standards. But Verizon and AT&T have both said they would move quicker, opting to deploy a fixed mobile broadband service, offering you high speeds in a single location like your home.

McAdam mentioned that Verizon was already working with Boston to take advantage of the faster 5G connection to power future smart city initiatives. The company could use its nationwide network of cellular towers as hubs to expand its broadband service beyond the Northeast region.

Those higher speeds could power emerging technologies such as virtual reality, 3D video conferencing and more, he said.

"The thing we grew up watching in Star Wars might happen," he said.

As for the competition, which has also made noise about exploring next-generation wireless technology, McAdam said they are two years behind.

"We're going to lead on 5G," he said. "We'll probably lead on 6G."