Verizon is building 5G "sandboxes" with vendor partners including Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung ahead of launching field trials next year.
The US operator was among the first to an launch LTE service, with a commercial rollout in 2010 across 39 metropolitan areas.
It said it is hoping to do the same with 5G and has teamed up with Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung to build test projects.
The so-called sandboxes, or network environments, will be based in the operator's innovation centres in Massachusetts and San Francisco.
Following the lab work, which will involve the development of 5G applications, field trials will start in 2016.
Verizon highlighted 5G's benefits as it offering around 50 times the current throughout of LTE, minimal latencies and IoT ready networks.
Marcus Weldon, Chief Technology Officer of Alcatel-Lucent and resident of Bell Labs, said: “When you’re planning a technological evolution at this scale it must be a collaboration of players in the ecosystem.
“Having Verizon initiate this effort now, even as 4G LTE technology has so much headroom left, will no doubt add to the rich fabric of our digital lives for many years to come.”
Roger Gurnani, Executive Vice-President and Chief Information and Technology Architect for Verizon, added: “5G is no longer a dream of the distant future. We feel a tremendous sense of urgency to push forward on 5G and mobilize the ecosystem by collaborating with industry leaders and developers to usher in a new generation of innovation.”
The research project follows the likes of the EU's METIS-II project, which will establish the route to 5G, as well as work on the radio system design for the next generation technology.