The Moto Z3 (Motorola)

With carriers promising mobile 5G network coverage early next year, Verizon and Motorola have introduced a new smartphone capable of upgrading to 5G when the time comes via a clip-on module housing a 5G-capable modem.

Motorola’s new Moto Z3 will be available starting Aug. 16, exclusively at Verizon stores, for $480. The 5G moto mod, which snaps on and supports 5G over millimeter wave spectrum, will likely come out in early 2019 – about the time Verizon said its mobile 5G service will debut. Pricing for the 5G moto mod has yet to be announced.

Verizon’s initial 5G rollouts will be focused on residential broadband using fixed wireless, with Houston, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, along with one additional city yet to be disclosed, the first markets to get the service during the second half of 2018. Verizon then plans to deploy mobile 5G services in 2019.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere on a quarterly earnings call this week reiterated plans to bring 5G to 30 cities this year, initially launching in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Las Vegas, with nationwide coverage happening by 2020.

 AT&T, meanwhile, plans to roll out mobile 5G service in 12 markets by the end of the year, and has said it intends to utilize its large holdings in the 39 GHz band to help meet that goal.  

For all the competition surrounding network rollouts, device vendors have not brought 5G-capable devices to market yet – though they could be coming soon. In July, Qualcomm introduced miniaturized antenna modules, small enough to fit into the bezel of a smartphone and capable of supporting mmWave and sub-6GHz bands.

“Such compact solutions as these from Qualcomm will no doubt help OEMs accelerate smartphone time-to-market without overly compromising the integrity of the devices’ industrial design, performance or cost,” said Malik Saadi, VP of Strategic Technologies at ABI Research.