Motorola's 5G Mod Reveals Some Fresh Hints About the Early Days of 5G

Image: Verizon

Despite getting announced last fall, we are only now finally getting some concrete info about Motorola’s 5G mod attachment for the Moto Z3, and with it comes some interesting insight on the early days of 5G as a whole.

Starting at $350, the mod—which will attach to the Moto Z3 and empower it with 5G connectivity—won’t be cheap. However, it’s price essentially confirms talk around the industry that 5G phones will command a significant premium over a similarly equipped 4G LTE device. It’s one of the most expensive mod released yet, however, to help spur adoption, Verizon (the exclusive carrier for the 5G mod) and Motorola are teaming up to allow people to pre-order the 5G mod for just $50 for a limited time.

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But what’s even more intriguing is that as part of that limited time deal, Verizon announced that 5G service for the mod will be free for the first three months for anyone already on one of Verizon’s three “unlimited” plans, and then $10 a month after that. Up until now, carriers have been incredibly cagey when asked about how much 5G data plans will cost, and while it’s not clear if the $10 a month surcharge for 5G data will apply to future 5G devices, it’s sort of nice to know that upgrading your plan down the road might not be super expensive. 

The other big question is one of availability. That’s because while pre-orders for the 5G mod go live on March 14th, it won’t be available until April 11th, which coincides with the launch of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband Networks in Chicago and Minneapolis.

Here’s the full list of areas covered by Verizon’s first mobile 5G network.
Screenshot: Verizon

But before people in those cities cheer for early 5G deployment, it’s important to read the fine print, because even within Chicago and Minneapolis, 5G coverage will be limited to select areas such as The Loop and Old Town in Chicago, and Elliot Park and Downtown East and West in Minneapolis.

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This somewhat sparse coverage highlights one of the problems with the rollout of 5G networks, namely, the difficulty of pinpointing exactly where a device can receive a 5G signal (which is what Verizon uses for its 5G network). Unlike traditional 4G LTE, mapping out mmwave 5G coverage is incredibly difficult, as its penetration is greatly affected by things like buildings and walls.

Additionally, despite a retail price of $350, Moto’s 5G mod doesn’t come with a lot of bonus extras aside from a built-in 2,000 mAh battery which is there to help balance out the increased power draw needed for 5G. And in exchange for those faster speeds, Z3 owners will have to deal with a mod that practically doubles the weight and thickness of the phone. So to help make up for all that, Verizon is giving people who order the 5G mod on March 14th a free Moto Z3 phone, just as long as they activate a new line of service as well.

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For most people, Moto’s 5G mod should just reinforce the notion that 5G will be an incredibly tough sell in 2019. However, if you’ve got money to burn and live in the right place, it seems Moto’s 5G mod will make good on its promise of making the Moto Z3 the first 5G phone on the market.

Update: After getting additional info from Verizon, we have updated the story to with both standard and promotional pricing for 5G service when using the 5G Moto mod.  

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About the author

Sam Rutherford

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.