Photo: Julie Jacobson (AP)

Verizon is launching what it’s calling “the world’s first commercial 5G broadband internet service” later this fall, with customers in parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento eligible to sign up for an October 1st launch date. However, there’s a big caveat: It’s technically not real 5G, and early adopters will mostly see speeds more or less similar to a good broadband connection.

According to a Verizon press release, the new service will run $50 for existing Verizon Wireless customers “with a qualifying smartphone plan” and $70 for new customers, in either case with no extra taxes or fees, annual contract, or hardware costs. The company is promising lots of perks for people to pick up the service ASAP such as free YouTube TV for three months, a free Apple TV or Chromecast Ultra device, and priority access to future mobile 5G services, but the section on speed is what most customers might want to pay attention to:

Verizon 5G Home customers should expect typical network speeds around 300 Mbps and, depending on location, peak speeds of nearly 1 Gbps, with no data caps.

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So, “around 300Mbps”—that’s about the advertised speed of a pretty good broadband connection (though service providers have a habit of exaggerating what speeds customers actually experience). That’s slower than the highest-rated Verizon fiber optic line speeds, and not necessarily all that much cheaper. That nearly one Gbps peak speed is nothing to shake a stick at, though advertised peak speeds are usually at best optimistic. And while the press release contains a promise of “no data caps,” Verizon has a long history of throttling data-hungry users.

As CNET noted, Verizon beat competitors to the chase by using “non-industry standard technology,” which means that this isn’t true 5G. Its real 5G network, which will have mobile access and not just fixed location service, won’t start rolling out until next year. However, the company did say in the press release that early adopters will get a “free router and router upgrades as they become available in 2019.”

This is all to say that enrolling in this program is more or less volunteering to be a guinea pig. (Note that all the test cities are relatively flat.) That certainly explains the red carpet approach, though potential customers should be wary whether signing up just yet will deliver better service than other options in the same price range.

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