Verizon sees 5G revolutionizing everything from surgery to education to transportation — so it’s opening high-tech labs in 4 cities by end of year

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Verizon 5G Lab
Verizon’s first 5G lab is based in New York City.
Verizon

Verizon has said that 5G will revolutionize the world, enabling the latest advancements in industries from telemedicine to autonomous vehicles.

But to fulfill that promise, the company must rely on third-party businesses to drive this innovation — and the telco behemoth wants a hand in steering that destiny.

To accomplish this, Verizon will add 5G labs to four US cities — Palo Alto, California; Playa Vista, California; Waltham, Massachusetts; and Washington, DC — by 2019 to ensure that the big, innovative ideas they’ve touted come to fruition.

“The idea is that we’re not just building the network, we’re creating the ecosystem with Verizon at the center,” Toby Redshaw, senior vice president, 5G Ecosystems, Innovation and Product Development for Verizon, told Business Insider.

Verizon’s labs are startup incubators that bring innovators together to build and test new products that could only be possible using 5G technology, according to Redshaw. It’s an opportunity to utilize the 5G network before it’s commercially rolled out.

Each lab will include entrepreneurs and innovators that match the dominant industries native to that city. The New York City lab, which launched in 2017, has innovators working on gaming, healthcare, and fintech.

Verizon wants 5G to foster better health care and educational products — not just faster data plans

Columbia University professor Stephen Steven Feiner, for example, is running trials on a telehealth VR solution for motor rehab out of the NYC lab. The trial features two people with a headset and hand controllers and simulates the two holding onto the corners of a wooden board together. The two people work at balancing a ball on the board, typical rehabilitation practice for individuals have lost some access in motor skills. The difference is a patient and therapist could be miles away from each other and still conduct these exercises.

Columbia University professor Stephen Steven Feiner watches a trial of a telehealth VR product for motor-skill rehab.
Verizon

The soon-to-be-opened DC lab will have a focus on non-governmental organizations and public safety. Palo Alto has a focus on technology startups, and education, while Playa Vista, is bent toward media and entertainment.

And Waltham will focus on biotechnology and eSports. The Celtics eSports team is one such innovation team that will work out of the Waltham lab once it is officially lit up with 5G technology.

5G is about so much more than faster cell phone service

5G is expected to offer superior speed and other capabilities that the current 4G LTE standard cannot. 5G latency speeds — the delay before transfer of data — are expected to be under 10 milliseconds. For comparison, a blink of an eye takes about 300 milliseconds. 5G is also expected to offer higher bandwidth capabilities or the amount of data that can be transmitted in a certain amount of time.

Verizon says that the newest advancements in remote medicine, robotic surgery, and widespread self-driving cars are impossible without 5G, a belief which seems to align with Verizon’s strategic priorities.

In June it tapped Hans Vestberg, an expert in network architecture, to run the company. It announced four initial cities that will receive 5G and promised a promotion around YouTube TV service and Apple TV 4K to anyone who signs up. And more broadly, the company has signaled it plans to steer clear of media M&A deals while the rest of the industry seems hungry for more media assets.

In other words, Verizon is all in on 5G. But it can’t get widespread buy in to the concept solely by promising a lightning-fast network. For that, it needs the broader industry to work together to embrace 5G.

“We are building out a helpful and hopefully humble ecosystem,” Redshaw said. “The last thing we want to be is the big, ugly, we know everything corporation. We want to be the agile collaboration unit with these folks.”

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