Verizon kicked off the virtual 2021 CES trade show Monday with a keynote delivered by CEO Hans Vestberg — starring 5G, the wireless technology the telco has invested billions in.

Verizon is now trying to make the case to consumers and businesses that it’s a truly game-changing communications and entertainment breakthrough. To date, Verizon has rolled out 5G in more than 2,700 U.S. cities. “5G isn’t just another tech innovation. It’s the platform that makes other innovations possible,” said Vestberg, who has hyped it as enabling a “fourth Industrial Revolution.”

In Vestberg’s keynote presentation, he revealed new and expanded 5G-related partnerships, including with the NFL, UPS, Live Nation, the Smithsonian Institution and the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an interactive virtual gallery project called “The Met Unframed.” They’re each intended to showcase the speed, low latency and major network efficiencies that 5G provides.

In addition, Verizon teamed with Sony on a VR concert experience featuring an avatar of Epic artist Madison Beer unveiled at CES.

Verizon and other carriers still have work to do to explain the full benefits of 5G, analysts say, as the industry is poised for an upgrade cycle helped by the recent release of Apple’s first 5G-enabled iPhones. A study released Monday by Hub Entertainment Research found that while general awareness of 5G among U.S. consumers is “wide and increasing” — rising from 74% in January 2020 to 89% in November among Americans — the wireless industry has done a relatively poor job of articulating reasons to upgrade to the next-gen service.

“Marketers need to give consumers a better reason to upgrade than it’s ‘faster’ — for many, 4G is fast enough for their needs already,” David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement.

Here’s a summary of Verizon’s 5G announcements:

NFL: Verizon committed to deploying 5G Ultra Wideband in 28 NFL stadiums by the end of 2021 with expanded coverage in select stadiums. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former football pro Deion Sanders, currently head football coach at Jackson State University, joined the virtual keynote to discuss how 5G is changing the fan experience; that included a demo of Verizon’s 5G SuperStadium in the NFL app, which lets fans with certain 5G-enabled devices watch select games with up to seven different camera angles.

Live Nation: Verizon has teamed with Live Nation Clubs and Theaters to deploy 5G Ultra Wideband at 15 venues, including the Wiltern in L.A., the Fillmore in Miami, the Masonic Theater in San Francisco and Irving Plaza in New York. The telco provided a sneak peek of a performance by the Grammy-nominated Black Pumas at the Wiltern featuring their hit singles “Colors” and “Fire”; the full concert will be available to members of the telco’s Verizon Up customer-loyalty program.

Smithsonian: Verizon announced an expanded relationship with the Smithsonian by supporting its upcoming “Race, Community, and Our Shared Future” initiative. Over the next fives years, the telco will use 5G to provide “high-fidelity 3D scanning” of collections and artifacts.

Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Met Unframed (themetunframed.com), powered by Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband, features more than a dozen digitally rendered galleries and nearly 50 works of art from across museum’s collection. The Met Unframed is accessible from any 4G or 5G smart device, and is available for free for a five-week run. Within the experience, four of the AR works of art are enhanced with activations accessible to users on Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband.


UPS: Skyward, Verizon’s commercial drone unit, and UPS Flight Forward announced that they are working together test 5G connectivity for delivery of retail products via drones after trials last year using 4G LTE. The companies aim to deliver retail products via connected drones at the Villages, a retirement community in central Florida.