Todd Krautkremer can look out of his Boise office at Cradlepoint and see a 5G antenna, but he can’t pick up 5G service here yet, and neither can the rest of us.
“I’m sitting here looking out my window at Boise Plaza,” on Idaho and 11th, reported Krautkremer, chief marketing officer for Cradlepoint Inc., which makes 5G products. “It’s a 5G antenna right on the stop sign pole at the intersection.”
Verizon has been installing transmitters throughout the city, and the Ada County Board of Commissioners made it easier for mobile network providers to install the transmitters earlier this year. But service hasn’t been announced for Boise yet.
5G is available in 10 cities thus far — Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Phoenix, Providence and Washington, DC — with more announced: Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Houston, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Salt Lake City and San Diego.
When Boise does get 5G, the service isn’t likely to blanket the city, especially at first. Even cities that already have 5G service have it only in particular neighborhoods.
For example, Denver has 5G only in the Potter Highlands Historic District, the Highland District, LoDo, the Central Business District, Capitol Hill and the Denver Tech Center. And those neighborhoods have caveats.
“Service will be concentrated in areas of Highlands, such as South of 37th between Tejon and Navajo Streets,” noted the Verizon website.
Verizon has also provided 5G service to 11 NFL stadiums, including the homes of the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. But even a stadium won’t have complete 5G coverage, Verizon noted.
“Service is concentrated in the lower seating area but could be available in other locations in and around the stadium as well,” according to the website.
Verizon has said it intends to announce a total of more than 30 cities by the end of the year. It isn’t clear, though, whether Boise will make that list. Several of the stadiums are in cities where Verizon hasn’t already announced service, including Baltimore; East Rutherford, New Jersey; Foxborough, Massachusetts, and Seattle.
However, Krautkremer is hopeful.
“The fact that they’re getting to a secondary market like Boise is a sign overall that 5G is continuing to proliferate,” he said. “Boise overall is the type of market that players like Verizon find very interesting for 5G.”
The spotty coverage is a sign of both 5G’s advantages and disadvantages, Krautkremer said. Advantages of the new generation of wireless technology include higher speed and reduced latency.
“It’s like a six-lane freeway that’s very short,” he said. “With 5G, you practically need an antenna on every intersection to get the kind of coverage that’s required. That’s what makes the buildout take more time.”
Once 5G service is available in Boise, people will need a phone supporting 5G to take advantage of it. Only a few offer it now, and they’re pricey — on the order of $1,300.
Even Krautkremer doesn’t have one yet.
“We’re a pretty cost-conscious organization,” he said. “I could get a corporate phone, but that doesn’t run 5G.”
Once 5G is more broadly available, Cradlepoint is positioning itself to provide 5G service in businesses.
“Certainly in 2020 we will be introducing some products in that arena,” Krautkremer said.
Currently, Cradlepoint provides similar services using the existing 4G wireless network. Businesses such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Redbox and Target use the company’s products. When the business’ wired internet connection fails, the Cradlepoint connection steps in and sets up connectivity over a 4G LTE link, Krautkremer said.
It’s going to take a long time – at least five years – for 5G to reach the same level of proliferation as 4G, Krautkremer said. However, until then, 4G and 5G will coexist. For large companies, such as some Cradlepoint customers with 1,500 locations, “you don’t have to wait for every site to have 5G to take advantage of it,” he said.