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Verizon CEO: Half of US will have access to 5G in 2020

Next year should be a big one for 5G.

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Verizon's CEO expects 5G to cover 50% of the country next year.?

Angela Lang/CNET

Verizon just announced four new 5G cities Thursday, but it's still early days. In a new interview, CEO Hans Vestberg says that 2020 should be the big year for the new network technology.?

"That, I think, is going to be next year," Vestberg told CNBC?when asked when he expects 50% of the population to have access to 5G. Although access to 5G may dramatically expand next year, it won't be until 2024 when Vestberg thinks half of the US population will be carrying 5G phones, crediting the power of current 4G LTE devices.?

Verizon currently has 5G live in nine cities over its high-frequency millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum, the same technology that rivals AT&T and T-Mobile are using for their first 5G cities. ??

Both rival carriers have already announced plans for nationwide 5G networks next year, but they plan to do so with a combination of wider-ranging -- but slower -- lowband and midband spectrum in addition to the faster, higher-frequency millimeter wave.?

Although it is the fastest of the three flavors of 5G, millimeter wave is the weakest when it comes to coverage. It also struggles with penetrating buildings and its high-frequency nature makes it troublesome in hotter temperatures.?

While it wasn't immediately clear if Vestberg meant that 50% of the US will have access to Verizon's mmWave 5G or if the company would be using other bands of spectrum to cover the rest of the country, the company told CNET that the 5G that covers half the US next year will be across all three flavors -- low, mid and millimeter-wave -- for its network.

Verizon has announced plans to cover over 30 markets with its speedy millimeter-wave 5G this year.

Updated Aug. 1 at 2:32 p.m. PT: Added more details from Verizon.?

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