Verizon prepares to launch ultra-fast wireless service in Sacramento

Cities where Verizon will test its 5G service
Cities where Verizon will test its 5G service Verizon

Verizon has chosen Sacramento as a test city for a new ultra-fast wireless internet service that will debut in coming weeks.

Verizon, the largest U.S. wireless communications service provider, chose Sacramento as one of 11 markets and the only city in California to deliver a new generation of wireless that is up to 100 times faster than what’s currently available.

“5G’s performance is so high that it may replace some of the wire services” said Richard Adler, Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for the Future. “In the future, everybody will have 5G, but at this point, this will bring some advantages to the selected locations over places that haven’t gotten it yet.”

The service will go live in Sacramento sometime this summer, before any of the other test cities. Verizon said it will send flyers in coming weeks to households in target areas with details on how to apply. Pricing data was not available Friday.

5G service, expected to be widely available by 2020, runs by linking signals from small cell towers. It’s faster than current fiber cable networks, and doesn’t require those expensive hardlines to work. It is so fast it can download a movie in seconds. For now, the technology doesn’t work on mobile devices.

Verizon said it chose Sacramento in part because the landscape is fairly flat, making it easy for cell signals to travel. Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato said the company was also swayed by Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s pitch that the city is committed to wooing more high-tech companies and jobs. City Hall has been working with Verizon for months to streamline permitting and other city services, and has done outreach between city business groups and Verizon to explain 5G.

The “mayor has indicated that being a smart city is very important for its citizens, and that is also why Sacramento made great sense,” said Flato.

Barry Broome, chief executive of The Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, said having 5G available in the city could help draw other high-tech start-ups that see the network as beneficial to their business.

“This is going to be an important attribute for our economy,” Broome said. “I think it helps us raise the profile of the market to be one of the 11 selected cities, and it will improve selection with tech companies.”

During his first months in office, Steinberg said he wanted to address income inequality in the city by helping to link jobs and internships in poor communities with a push bring Silicon Valley businesses to the region. The city recently announced it’s a lead contender for a $44 million investment in green technology by Volkswagen to compensate for its diesel pollution scandal, and Steinberg believes that the city’s partnership with Verizon is a significant step in continuing an economic transformation.

“It’s another sign that Sacramento is on the move,” Steinberg said. “We are seen as a place to try new technology, a place to innovate, a place to locate. Sacramento is changing.”

The mayor is participating in a bus tour with Verizon next Tuesday to showcase the new technology to residents.

Walter Ko: 916-321-1436, @juntaeko