Verizon releases 5G coverage maps, expands to 3 new cities

Verizon on Tuesday expanded its 5G millimeter wave service to select parts of three new cities, and also released 5G coverage area maps.

The latest cities to join Verizon’s 5G roster include Boston, Houston and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This brings the total tally to 18 so far, with the carrier promising to launch in 30 cities by year end.

As in other initial 5G cities, 5G coverage in Boston, Houston and Sioux Falls is limited to select parts and concentrated in dense high-traffic public outdoor spaces, including around landmarks. In Boston, for example, service can be found around Fenway Park, Harvard Medical School, and Northeastern University, among others. In Houston, stadiums appear to get attention, with 5G service centered around the NRG Stadium, BBVA Compass Stadium and Rice University Stadium, and the Galleria Mall. Landmarks in Sioux Falls include Levitt at the Falls, Orpheum Theatre, Washington Pavilion, State Theatre, and U.S. Federal Courthouse.

RELATED: Verizon joins rivals in NYC with 5G

For the first time however, Verizon has released 5G coverage maps, where users can go online to see neighborhoods and landmarks where 5G service is available in certain parts or click to see a street-level view of the neighborhood.

The maps mostly show small pockets of coverage, which is not too surprising given that frequencies in the 28 GHz band have limited transmission range and can be easily blocked by objects, including foliage or buildings.

Verizon clearly states coverage maps show outdoor availability, and the site contains a disclaimer that says:

“These maps are not a guarantee of coverage and contain areas of no service, and are a general prediction of where rates apply based on our internal data. Wireless service is subject to network and transmission limitations, including cell site unavailability, particularly near boundaries and in remote areas. Customer equipment, weather, topography and other environmental considerations associated with radio technology also affect service and service may vary significantly within buildings. Some information on service outside the Verizon Wireless proprietary network, and we can not vouch for its accuracy.”

A lack of coverage maps is something competitor T-Mobile has publicly criticized, going as far as to roll out a large billboard in New York’s Time Square and posting signs at bus stops and LinkNYC kiosks with the words ‘verHIDEzon’ ahead of Verizon’s New York City 5G launch in September.  

In usual fashion, T-Mobile CEO John Legere quickly took to Twitter Tuesday about the release of the coverage maps:

T-Mobile itself has only deployed limited 5G service using mmWave spectrum, but recently announced a Dec. 6 launch date to deliver broad 5G coverage using 600 MHz, pledging to cover 200 million people.

While Verizon is using its 28 GHz spectrum now, it intends to leverage dynamic spectrum sharing technology to expand 5G coverage by using current spectrum assets for both LTE and 5G NR.

Wells Fargo analysts in a Tuesday note to investors mentioned the majority of Verizon’s cell sites are also software-upgradable to leverage DSS between its 5G and 4G network, and more than 75% of new cell sites in the past few months have been directly connected to its fiber assets.

Verizon also plans to expand its 5G Home product based on the 3GPP NR standard, which recently rolled out in Chicago.

“While it remains somewhat difficult to forecast the exact financial impact of its 5G deployment initiatives, we do believe [Verizon] has a plan in place to maintain a leadership position once 5G is more broadly embraced,” wrote the Wells Fargo team led by senior analyst Jennifer Fritzsche.