Verizon's Vestberg touts 5G's potential during CES keynote

LAS VEGAS—Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg used his keynote at CES 2019 to talk all about 5G: Verizon’s leadership in it, strategic partnerships and how it’s going to change everything.

Several partners joined Vestberg on stage to talk about how their organizations are using 5G for the betterment of society, including The New York Times Company CEO Mark Thompson, who announced the launch of the Verizon/New York Times 5G Journalism Project where journalists will use 5G to improve news gathering and presentation.

The Walt Disney Studios’ Chief Technology Officer Jamie Voris talked about how 5G can make a difference in how filmmakers produce stories, while Mariah Scott, CEO of Skyward, talked about 5G’s role in unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. Dr. Christopher Morley, founder of MediVis, discussed how using augmented reality (AR) on a 5G network can enable surgeons to review detailed anatomical information on patients undergoing surgery—thereby taking a lot of guesswork out of the process.

RELATED: Skyward aims to be the Verizon of drone services

One of the more dramatic moments during the keynote was when Vestberg took the controls to fly a drone from the stage. Scott, a licensed drone pilot, supervised as Vestberg pressed the button on an iPad to launch a drone in Los Angeles, where a crew was standing by, and the 5G network achieved 900 megabits per second throughput.

Verizon acquired Portland, Oregon-based Skyward in February 2017. When Skyward was founded, it was illegal to fly commercial drones in the U.S., Scott explained. But in 2016, the FAA legalized drones for commercial use, and now there are more than 1 million drones federally registered in the U.S. and more than 100,000 licensed commercial drone pilots. Verizon itself uses drones to inspect infrastructure and conduct R&D.

“We knew early on that connectivity would be critical for drones” to transform the world, and 5G will usher a new era in aviation, Scott said. She announced Verizon is committed to be the first to connect 1 million drones to the 5G network, allowing drones to become a key part of how companies reimagine their businesses.

Scott also said 5G offers low latency, high bandwidth and the security required for autonomous flights.

Vestberg spent much of his keynote talking about the eight “currencies” of 5G that will unleash highly connective technologies and blend physical and digital realms unlike previous wireless generations—from AR and virtual reality to internet of things, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, advanced robotics, 3D printing and wearable tech. The eight currencies are outlined here.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Verizon keynote without a nod to Verizon’s network—one that’s able to support these eight currencies of 5G thanks to its fiber, spectrum, network density and real estate, according to the CEO. “Anyone who thinks 5G is just for the mobile handset is thinking too small,” he said.

Closing the keynote, Vestberg officially launched Verizon’s “Built on 5G Challenge,” calling on innovators to create new solutions that leverage 5G connectivity. Up to $1 million in total will be awarded to the winning innovators to develop their concepts on live 5G networks located at Verizon’s 5G New York Lab, 5G Waltham Lab, 5G Cambridge Lab, and new locations being built in Los Angeles and Palo Alto in California and in Washington, D.C.  Verizon 5G Lab technical advisers will provide training and support to the winning innovators.