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Verizon just let slip when its 5G mobile service will launch

That 5G attachment for Moto Z phones is coming early next year and is going to need a 5G network.

motorola-moto-z3-product-photos-9

You'll be able to snap on a 5G attachment next year.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Verizon's mobile 5G network is going to launch early next year, even if the company hasn't outright said it. 

The nation's largest wireless carrier by subscribers essentially outed its plans with the debut of Motorola's Moto Z3, which will get a "mod" attachment accessory that'll let it tap into the 5G network early next year. 

"You're not going to have a phone without a network," Nicola Palmer, chief network officer of Verizon, said in an interview Thursday. 

Palmer declined to comment on more specific timing for the launch. 

This is the first indication of when Verizon's mobile 5G network will launch. It puts the company right up against T-Mobile and Sprint, which are each planning to launch their 5G networks early in 2019. AT&T said it'll launch its mobile 5G network in three cities this year. Previously, Verizon said only that it would launch 5G as a broadband replacement service this year, with mobile to come later. The carriers' plans are part of an intense race to get to 5G as a way to burnish a reputation for network superiority. 

Motorola and Verizon on Thursday introduced the Moto Z3, the latest edition of Motorola's high-end smartphone best known for its assortment of "mod" accessories. Most of the magnetic attachments seemingly boost battery life, but one of the most intriguing ones is a mod that lets the device access the 5G network. 

Pricing and exact availability for the 5G mod will come later this year. Palmer declined to comment on pricing.  

The Moto Z3 is the latest gadget to jump on the 5G bandwagon. The next-generation wireless technology, promising significantly higher speed and responsiveness, is seen as a potential catalyst for a wave of innovation in tech, powering everything from self-driving cars to telemedicine and streaming VR. 

The 5G mod won't just work with the Moto Z3, which is an exclusive to Verizon and optimized for its network. The mod will work with other Z phones, and will double or triple the existing speeds, even if it isn't the full 5G experience. 

The mod won't just work with the Z phones. It can be connected via USB and serve as a tether for a laptop. Brian Higgins, vice president of device and product marketing at Verizon, said it could get speeds of 5 gigabits per second, judging from its models in the labs. The Z3 equipped with the mod will get speeds of around 2.5 GB/sec.

And yes, the mod will give your phone some extra juice. It'll include a 2,000 mAh battery inside.

First published Aug. 2, 1:13 p.m. PT.
Update, 2 p.m.:
Includes comment from Verizon and more details on the mod.