Partners See Growth Opportunities As Verizon Brings 5G Trials To SMB Customers, Consumers In 11 Cities This Year

Not to be outdone by rival AT&T, telecom giant Verizon is forging ahead with aggressive 5G buildout plans. The carrier revealed plans to pilot its 5G service in 11 markets by mid-2017.

Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon, said it selected the 11 cities for 5G trials to test a variety of terrain, population density and neighborhoods. Samsung Electronics America, one of Verizon's 5G technology forum partners, will be involved in the trials in five of the 11 cities.

Beginning in April and running until June 2017, Verizon will pilot its "pre-commercial" 5G technology to customers in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Atlanta; Bernardsville, N.J.; Brockton, Mass.; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Miami; Sacramento, Calif.; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

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A spokesperson for Verizon told CRN that it will be targeting both residential customers and small businesses within its trial markets. Once available to the channel, partners will be able to access Verizon's 5G technology for SMB customers through Verizon's new division, Verizon Business Markets.

By targeting small-business customers with its 5G offering, Verizon is opening up new selling opportunities for channel partners, said Michael Wolfington, vice president of partner sales for Kingcom, a national Verizon Platinum partner.

"Historically, this customer segment has been largely dominated by the cable companies, so it's a massive growth opportunity for Verizon to target [that will] give customers increased options for their network needs," he said.

Portland, Ore.-based Kingcom is fielding questions and increased interest about 5G technology on a daily basis, Wolfington said.

Verizon has informed Kingcom that its initial plan is to make 5G available in the largest "NFL cities" in 2017 with a larger rollout slated for 2018, he added.

"Verizon has been somewhat limited in regard to their expectations for 5G's rollout, but they have communicated that it will deliver speeds at least 10 times faster than 4G, with [Quality of Service]. Even more exciting is the decreased headache customers will experience through implementation," he said.

Verizon's services division and Samsung Data Service America will be managing the trial deployments, Verizon said. Samsung's 5G Access Units have been installed throughout five of the 11 cities’ business and residential neighborhoods that Verizon has targeted for the trial.

The 5G trials will use the 28GHz spectrum and advanced beamforming technology. Access units will communicate radio signals to a virtualized core network that is set up within Verizon’s data centers, according to the carrier.

In addition to Samsung, Verizon's 5G Technology Forum partners include Ericsson, Intel and Qualcomm Technologies. These vendors are working on commercializing chipsets, infrastructure products and consumer devices for the 5G specification, the carrier said.

A formalized 5G standard isn't expected to be finalized until 2018, with a global rollout expected in the 2020 time frame, according to industry analysts. As it stands today, 5G standards and technology aren't consistent across all carriers.

AT&T is also aggressively pushing into 5G. The Dallas-based carrier in January said it getting ready to launch two "evolution markets" during 2017 that will receive peak wireless connectivity speeds of 400 Mbps. AT&T named Indianapolis and Austin, Texas, as its two first sites. The launch follows AT&T's 5G trial for business customers it conducted with Intel in 2016.