Verizon has announced that it will be commercially deploying a 5G network in Sacramento, California, in the second half of 2018.
After last month signalling an acceleration of its 5G New Radio (NR) field trials with a goal of launching its next-generation mobile networks in 2019, Verizon is now saying that it will deploy between three and five 5G networks across the United States starting next year.
According to Verizon, its trials of 5G during 2017 have been successful, with the carrier saying it has "confidence" in millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum-based technologies.
"Verizon estimates the market opportunity for initial 5G residential broadband services to be approximately 30 million households nationwide," the company said.
Once the Sacramento network is under way, Verizon said it would announce the timing and locations of the other two to four 5G networks, adding that deployments would not have a material impact on its 2018 capital expenditure.
Calling it a "landmark announcement", Verizon CTO Hans Vestberg thanked the carrier's 5G technology partners for helping develop and test fixed and mobile applications during its trials.
In June, Verizon told ZDNet that one of the "key" parts of 5G is interoperability, with the carrier working with Ericsson, Cisco, Samsung, Intel, LG, Nokia, and Qualcomm to roll out its pre-commercial 5G trial networks this year.
"Interoperability ... is very key," Verizon senior solutions architect Chris Painter told ZDNet in June.
"It's going to be a multi-vendor solution, so we need to have that interoperability."
Verizon's 11 pre-commercial 5G trial networks -- in Sacramento; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas and Houston, Texas; Miami, Florida; Seattle, Washington; Washington DC; Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton, Massachusetts; and Denver, Colorado -- were deployed throughout 2017.
It also trialled 5G during the Indianapolis 500 motor race in partnership with Intel and Ericsson in May, using technologies such as beam forming and beam tracking to attain speeds in excess of 6Gbps.
Verizon has been additionally improving its LTE networks, last month adding Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (Massive MIMO) technology across its wireless network in Irvine, California, increasing network capacity and speeds for customers in partnership with Ericsson.
For the Massive MIMO deployment, Ericsson provided 96 antenna elements that are driven by 16 transceiver radio units across a 20MHz chunk of advanced wireless services spectrum, which will "serve as a stepping stone to 5G", enabling beam-forming technology that directs antenna beams to where a customer is.
"Massive MIMO is a key technology enabler for 5G, but already today, 4G LTE service providers and end users can benefit from the superior capacity and network performance this technology enables," Ericsson head of Market Area North America Niklas Heuveldop explained in October.
"The current trial is an important step in the collaboration we have with Verizon to prepare their network for 5G."
Ericsson said it will also move to deploy Massive MIMO on further areas of Verizon's network "where there are capacity needs" in future.
Earlier this month, rival carrier AT&T similarly announced that it will be launching its 5G Evolution network across Minneapolis, Minnesota, by the end of 2017, involving the addition of LTE-Advanced features including 4x4 MIMO, 3x carrier aggregation, and 256 Quadrature Amplitude Moderation (256 QAM).
AT&T is also installing small cells throughout the city, and upgrading its distributed antenna systems.
It is working with more than a dozen global tech companies on its pre-5G deployments, with lab trials seeing speeds of 14Gbps for its fixed-wireless 5G technology. In August, it announced it would expand its 5G trials to three more cities by the end of 2017 in South Bend, Indiana; Waco, Texas; and Kalamazoo, Michigan.
For those three trial networks, AT&T is using Ericsson's 28GHz radios, virtualised RAN (vRAN), and full 5G virtualised core; Intel's 5G mobile trial platform; Samsung's 5G router, 5G RFIC chipset, virtualised core, and vRAN; and Nokia's 5G equipment and solutions.
AT&T launched its 5G Evolution upgrade on its network in Austin, Texas, in June, followed by Indianapolis, Indiana, in July, also lauding the performance of mmWave technologies. The network will be rolled out to 20 metro areas by the end of 2017, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, and Nashville.
Verizon outbid AT&T in May to acquire Straight Path Communications and its portfolio of mmWave spectrum licences for $3.1 billion.
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