LIVE FROM CES 2019, LAS VEGAS: Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg (pictured) offered a $1 million bounty for transformative 5G applications, as he touted the potential of next generation networks to drive change.

In a keynote address, Vestberg said the operator will launch a Built on 5G Challenge in the first half of this year, luring innovators with awards of up to $1 million in seed money and access to Verizon’s 5G labs to develop new use cases.

The announcement came as Vestberg talked up the potential of 5G, noting it will represent a “quantum leap compared to 4G” and power an “enormous transformation” in the way companies do business.

Specifically, the CEO pointed to eight key characteristics of the next generation technology he said will spur a new era of innovation, including: faster peak data rates; increased traffic volume; mobility; connected devices; energy efficiency; faster service deployment; reliability; and low latency.

Taking 5G to the streets
Alongside a series of guests, Vestberg showcased how these might be applied in the real world. For instance, Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times, described how 5G can “take multimedia storytelling to the next level” by allowing journalists to deliver news to audiences “instantaneously and in the form they need it”.

Christopher Morley, co-founder of medical technology company MediVis, shared an example of how 5G can be used to improve surgical results by using augmented reality tools to help doctors see inside patients before making incisions (pictured, right).

Mariah Scott, president of Verizon-owned drone company Skyward, painted a picture of a future in which “aerial robots will be essential to urban and rural infrastructure” and revealed Verizon’s commitment to be the first to connect 1 million drones to its 5G network.

Though the presentation covered a lot of ground, industry analyst Paolo Pescatore noted “the lack of any mention of the consumer landscape is telling. All the main use cases that will drive revenue and better efficiencies from 5G are driven by enterprises”.

There was also no mention of any specific plans around its launch of mobile 5G services (due sometime this year) or an update on sales of its initial fixed wireless access 5G service (for home broadband) which went live in October 2018.

Q4 preview
The keynote came just after Verizon wireless chief Ronan Dunne revealed at an investor conference the operator posted strong subscriber metrics in Q4, with 1.2 million post paid subscriber additions. Of those, more than half (650,000) were lucrative phone subscribers, he said.

US operators separate smartphone user numbers from other customers, including those with contracts covering tablet PCs, M2M and IoT connections.