Verizon Opens ‘5G Experience Lab,’ Further Ups the Hype But Not Its Game

My trip to the grand opening of Verizon’s 5G Experience Lab fell right into morning routine. It was a few blocks from my sons’ high school in Downtown Los Angeles, and just 5.2 miles away from my home office in the West Adams district.

The lab, which is one of two that opened this week, the other being in Houston, is designed to showcase real-world, low latency applications for 5G in the American home. As the first customer through the door, I experienced its effectiveness firsthand, watching 4K video delivered through a smartphone via 5G, and playing video games and experiencing VR using pretty much the same mechanisms.

I played an Xbox One racing game with the console based in a remote location, the remote control signaling and the video display being transacted to the monitor entirely through a Samsung Galaxy smartphone connecting via 5G. It felt like I was interacting directly to the console as if it were only a few feet away.

Verizon said it wants to give consumers a “tangible experience of what it is like to live in a 5G world.”

Moving onto the next station, I shot free throws through a virtual reality head set. The hoop I was looking at was being recorded through a camera mounted on the headset, and sent back to a remote PC—also via 5G-connected smartphone—then sent back to my eyeballs. The reality of what I was looking at just 15 feet away had become virtualized in real time.

The resulting experience didn’t help my pretty decent career 70+% free throw accuracy. My shots all missed badly to the right, further reinforcing the subtly conveyed disbelief of the twenty-something lab worker overseeing this area that the fleshy middle-aged trade journalist before him truly ever had dangerous mid-range game.

Yeah, back in the days of 56K dial-up, and 210 weigh-ins, I could really D up, and I could knock down the 15- to 20-foot jumper consistently. I could ball.

But the young lad would just have to take my word for it. There was not tangible evidence before him to confirm it. It’s kind of the same with Verizon and 5G. I just have to believe company’s assertion that the service is actually deployed.

Indeed, for me, all Monday’s trip Downtown did was—besides making me really dizzy from the VR—confirmation that we’re not yet really living in a 5G world, at least not yet.

Related: Verizon Launches ‘First’ 5G Service in Four Cities

Verizon’s initial launch of 5G isn’t available at my duplex just a few miles down the road. Similarly, a nearby writer for Mashable, located on the West Side of town, had largely the same experience—the presentations were plenty engaging, but she doesn’t yet have access to Verizon 5G services.

Just to recap, Verizon announced on Oct. 1 that it had launched 5G fixed wireless service in “limited areas” of Los Angeles, Houston, Sacramento and Indianapolis. It has yet to publish a coverage map, however. The company is currently gathering customer contact information in these regions and says it will let folks know when 5G is available in their neck of the woods. The Experience Labs undoubtedly aid that process.

Where specifically is Verizon 5G available? How many users are signed up? Is it consistently delivering 300 Mbps speeds—with the occasional burst of 940 Mbps action—as Verizon promised?

I’ll wait to be impressed until I experience that data. 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!