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Verizon CEO: 'Tens of thousands' of customers buying new 5G phones

Michelle Fox
  • Verizon is betting that customers will pay up for Samsung's new 5G smartphone.
  • "We are seeing tens of thousands of customers taking it already," says CEO Hans Vestberg.

Verizon is betting that customers will pay up for Samsung's new 5G smartphone, even though the price point is high and the technology's infrastructure is still being built up.

"It's a great experience," Verizon VZ CEO Hans Vestberg said in an interview with CNBC's " Closing Bell " on Thursday.

"I believe that there's going to be people taking it. We are seeing tens of thousands of customers taking it already," he said. "And today is the first day you can actually buy it."

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is the first device that supports Verizon's new 5G network out of the box. It follows the Motorola Z3, which also runs on 5G but only if you buy an additional $200 accessory that enables it.

Verizon is selling a $1,299 version of the Galaxy S10 5G, as well as a $1,399 model with twice the storage.

However, the nation's 5G network is still being built out. Verizon's 5G network is currently only available in Chicago and Minneapolis, but it is expected to be available in 20 U.S. cities by the end of the year.

Vestberg said that the 5G experience is "so very different" from 4G because it can get over 1.3 gigabit per second on the network — a much faster rate than 4G.

When asked what kind of market share gain he can hope to get from releasing 5G phones, Vestberg said, "Let's see how it plays out." However, he said the company has "high ambition."

"We have the best network, and we want to be first with the technology."

The company plans to ultimately offer four phones with 5G this year, and three-quarters of the phones it is launching next year will have 5G.

"The ecosystem is ramping up extremely fast," Vestberg said.

AT&T T , Sprint S-GB and T-Mobile TMUS plan to roll out their 5G networks for phones later this year.

— CNBC's Todd Haselton contributed to this report.