AT&T to deploy live mobile “5G” in the U.S. on Dec. 21st, but limited to single WiFi hotspot endpoint
Whew! I don’t have to hold my breath any longer! But is it really 5G? And whom other than stadiums/parks will buy it with only a single end device offered- a WiFi hotspot?
AT&T announced today that they will be offering their so called “5G” mobile network service in 12 cities on December 21st. The telco/media conglomerate says: “AT&T will be the first and only company in the U.S. to offer a mobile 5G device over a commercial, standards-based mobile 5G network.”
Please see Author’s Closing Comments below, which refute that “standards based” claim. We’ve repeatedly pounded the table that 3GPP Release 15 NR NSA is not 5G and nothing that comes out of 3GPP is a standard (as per their own website!).
As expected, AT&T’s initial 5G launch will use mmWave spectrum , which is claimed to offer users a faster mobile experience than standard LTE. The 5G service starts small and will be limited. AT&T’s mobile 5G network is live in parts of 12 cities: Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio and Waco, Texas.
Note 1. Millimeter waves occupy the frequency spectrum from 30 GHz to 300 GHz. They’re found in the spectrum between microwaves (1 GHz to 30 GHz) and infrared (IR) waves, which is sometimes known as extremely high frequency (EHF). The wavelength (λ) is in the 1-mm to 10-mm range.
“This is the first taste of the mobile 5G era,” said Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs and chief technology officer. “Being first, you can expect us to evolve very quickly. It’s early on the 5G journey and we’re ready to learn fast and continually iterate in the months ahead.”
In the first half of 2019 AT&T plans to deploy mobile 5G in parts of these 7 additional cities: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif. The company says that as the 5G ecosystem evolves customers will see enhancements in coverage, speeds and devices.
“As the ecosystem evolves, this technology will ultimately change the way we live and conduct business,” said Mo Katibeh, chief marketing officer, AT&T Business. “We expect that our initial adopters will be innovative, growing businesses. They’re the starting point for what we think will be a technology revolution like we’ve never seen before.”
“Today’s news is a seminal moment in the advancement of mobile 5G technology,” said David Christopher, president of AT&T mobility and entertainment, in a statement. “This proves we are well on our way to the promise of mobile 5G for consumers.”
Early adopters will only have one choice of end user equipment: the NETGEAR® Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot (aka “a puck”) on the mobile 5G+ network. AT&Ts 5G service will start out in dense urban areas. Through an initial offer, AT&T says they will deliver select businesses and consumers their first mobile 5G device plus 5G data usage at no cost for at least 90 days. Next spring, customers will be able to get the Nighthawk for $499 upfront and 15GB of data for $70 a month on a compatible plan and no annual commitment .
AT&T said its hot spot and the data it uses will be free for subscribers in the first 90 days of the rollout. After that period, the device will sell for $499 with a 15-gigabyte data plan priced at $70 per month—a rate slightly cheaper per-datum than the 10-GB for $50 it offers with 4G LTE hotspots.
An AT&T spokesperson said businesses and customers in the initial rollout areas can express interest in joining the early phase of the network on the company’s website. The spokesperson also said the network should eventually reach theoretical peak speeds of 979 megabits per second, but actual average rates will be lower.
In December, AT&T announced two 5G-capable smartphones for 2019. A Samsung-branded 5G smartphone operating on AT&Ts mmWave is will be released in the spring of 2019. Toward the end of 2019, AT&T will release another Samsung 5G smartphone with multi-frequency band support. None of those devices will meet the still uncompleted IMT 2020 standard for mobile 5G (see Closing Comments below).
Note 2. The NETGEAR Nighthawk device will require a 5G compatible AT&T data plan. Device availability and 5G+ coverage areas are limited.
Expect to hear more about 5G soon at events like the big consumer electronics trade show CES in January in Las Vegas and MWC Barcelona (formerly the Mobile World Congress) in February in Spain. Wireless service providers including AT&T and Verizon are already talking up 5G. And device makers are previewing gadgets that will work with the technology.
Samsung recently demonstrated prototypes of 5G smartphones that are expected to operate on both Verizon and AT&T networks. Many other manufacturers are racing to follow suit, though Apple is not expected in the initial 5G wave. Analysts predict that iPhones with the new technology won’t arrive until 2020.
Qualcomm, the wireless chip maker, said it had demonstrated peak 5G download speeds of 4.5 gigabits/second, but predicts initial median speeds of about 1.4 gigabits/secon. That translates to roughly 20 times faster than the current 4G LTE experience, but is much lower than IMT 2020 objectives for peak and average bit rates.
The 5G speeds will be particularly noticeable in higher-quality streaming video.Downloading a typical movie at the median speeds cited by Qualcomm would take 17 seconds with 5G, compared with six minutes for 4G.
From a previous IEEE Techblog post–AT&T’s 5G Roadmap (only mobile 5G was shown on Al Burke’s SCWS 2018 presentation – nothing on fixed 5G):
- 2019: 5G NR access with LTE Core network and LTE Access (=signaling?). The spectrum for AT&Ts initial mobile 5G rollout was not disclosed, but many believe it will be mmWave.
- 2020-2022+: 5G NR access with 5G Core network (3GPP Release 16 SA or IMT 2020?); also LTE Core with LTE Access
- 2019-2022+: mmWave NR : Evolution to Ultra High Speed and lower latency
- End of 2019-2022+: (unspecified time frame?), AT&T will provide sub 6 GHz 5G coverage in the U.S. speed and latency; dedicated & shared spectrum (LTE-NR-Coexistence)
When AT&T introduces its “5G” FWA residential service it will be based on LTE, according to Mr. Burke. In answer to a question from this author during the Q&A session, he said it would start as LTE but then transition to 5G NR based FWA. The spectrum to be used was not revealed by Mr. Burke, but it will likely be mmWave (like Verizon’s 5G Home).
Author’s Closing Comments:
A claim we’ve heard before (by Ericsson and Vodafone), but don’t believe: LTE network and terminal equipment will upgrade to 5G NR via “only a software upgrade.”As noted many times by this author and others,
AT&T has repeatedly stated they would roll out “standards based 5G” in 12 cities by the end of 2018 (they have only 3 weeks to fulfill that promise) and 19 cities in 2019. Some of the cities identified by AT&T for the 2018 launch include Houston TX, Dallas TX, Atlanta TX, Waco TX, Charlotte NC, Raleigh NC, Oklahoma City OK, Jacksonville FL, Louisville, KY, New Orleans LA, Indianapolis IN, and San Antonio TX.
How long can AT&T claim their “5G” network is standards based when they only support 3GPP release 15 “5G NR” NSA access with a LTE core network and LTE signaling? The ONLY 5G RAN/RIT standard is IMT 2020 which won’t be completed till the end of 2020. AT&T knows this well because one of their representatives is the Chairman of ITU-R WP 5D where IMT 2020 is being standardized.
SCWS Americas: Verizon and AT&T 5G Roadmaps Differ on FWA vs mobile “5G”
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Whoopi! You now have the opportunity to pay $500 for a Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot, which converts a 5G signal into an 802.11ac or 802.11ax wireless hotspot. Tethering via USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) linkage is also available. Battery life details and capacity are not yet available, so we don’t know how long the hotspot lasts (the Netgear Nighthawk 5G contains a Snapdragon 855 SoC and X50 modem.
Once you’ve shucked out $500 for the hardware, you have your choice of one data plan — $70 per month, for 15GB of data. The one advantage of this, I suppose, is that it’s literally better than the $10/GB pricing that AT&T and its ilk were pushing back a few years ago. But at 5G data rates — commonly advertised as 1Gbps and up — you can burn through all 15GB of data in about two minutes, assuming your connection is as fast as AT&T claims it could be. Then again, AT&T charges $50/month for 10GB of 4G data, which does technically make this a better deal, at $4.67/GB as opposed to $5/GB.
Either way, both the data limits and the pricing per GB are absurd for a product that comes with a mandatory $500 purchase fee. Service will only be offered to select customers and businesses for the first part of 2019, in parts of the following cities to start with:
Oklahoma City, OK
New Orleans, LA
San Antonio, TX
AT&T has yet to state what speeds its 5G users should expect, and for now, the service is hotspot-only, with no support for mobile devices since no 5G handsets exist. Don’t expect 5G service to ever be cheap — AT&T and other executives are already salivating over new billing models that allow them to charge for premium 5G service tiers for, say, low latency gaming access.
Why Does AT&T’s 5G Plan Cost So Much?
This 5G Plan Is Basically a 4G Service Plan
AT&T admits freely that its 5G coverage is very, very limited right now. It’s just dense areas of 12 cities. So the service plan is probably being calculated knowing that much of the usage is going to be on 4G. It’s like steak with some shaved truffles on top: you hear a lot about the truffles, but your meal is still mostly steak.
Because AT&T felt it had to make a deadline, it threw a service plan out there that made sense with the current state of its network. The current state of its network is, mostly 4G.
AT&T Can’t Support Capacity Improvements (Yet)
The much lower prices we imagine for 5G gigabytes are dependent on massively greater capacity, and AT&T doesn’t have that capacity yet. 5G isn’t magic: one estimate says that it can encode 23 bits/hertz/second as opposed to 4G’s 15 bits/hertz/second. 5G’s advantage comes in using a lot more hertz—bigger channels in new bands.
Right now, many Americans’ phones roll along using something like 60MHz of 4G spectrum at any given time. I’ve heard from several reliable sources right now that AT&T’s Ericsson base stations can currently only use 100MHz of millimeter-wave 5G spectrum, and that they can’t combine 5G and 4G data transfers. They will be able to use more spectrum, and to combine 4G and 5G in the future; they just can’t do it yet. Both things greatly increase network capacity.
AT&T has an average of 375MHz of millimeter-wave spectrum in many major cities, so once Ericsson works its issues out, you’ll see more capacity and therefore lower prices (probably). But lots of the spectrum potentially used for 5G hasn’t even been auctioned off yet. The FCC is currently running two auctions for a total of 1.55GHz of millimeter-wave. AT&T is bidding in both, and there are three more auctions coming in 2019. The FCC is also working on making 1.2GHz more available for shared usage in the 6GHz band.
You’re driving your car on the road as the road is being built here. Everyone’s squeezed into one lane because there are backhoes in the other five.
The Economics Differ From Verizon’s 5G Home
Verizon’s 5G Home service currently charges $70/month, but for truly unlimited data. Verizon can pull that off because its network isn’t mobile, and it’s using very different equipment from AT&T. Verizon is currently using 400MHz channels—four times AT&T’s capacity—and it can choose its stationary customers so it knows it won’t overload its cells. Since AT&T customers are on the move, network planning is much harder for AT&T (as it will be for any mobile 5G network.)
There’s No Competition
And they aren’t trying to attract a crowd anyway. Competition drives down prices, and there’s no price war for mobile 5G (yet.) Also, AT&T has said publicly that it has a very small number of devices and is deploying them using what sounds like an invite-only basis. I remember seeing this with Verizon’s early 4G hotspot rollout. If you don’t particularly care about attracting a lot of customers right now, because your network is super-early and fragile and this is all really a trial for die hards, you charge high rates so only the very passionate will sign up. There will always be a small number of passionate people who want to sign up.
AT&T Was on a Deadline
Sometimes you go to war with the 5G army you have. AT&T had pledged to release its 5G mobile device by the end of the year, and it wanted to be a company that lived up to its promises.
Bragging rights are important. AT&T will now, and until the end of time, be the first mobile 5G network in the US. It can put that on billboards and take it to the bank. But we’ve only just started on the road to 5G.
Also see Fierce Wireless Q & A with AT&T:
From EE Times: https://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1334092
“I told [management] that I want every day that’s left in the year,” said Gordon Mansfield, an AT&T vice president who helped set and now oversees the carrier’s 5G plans. “The equipment is literally coming off production lines and going into the field — we are not even using normal shipping channels.” Three members of Mansfield’s team gave glimpses into the work that they have completed as of late November and what’s yet to come.
David Orloff, an AT&T director who oversees testing of radio systems, recalls the day in September that his team toughed it out on a Waco, Texas, rooftop in heat and rain making its first 5G link.
“We were on a roof in sometimes torrential rain in raincoats with umbrellas and personal-sized coolers, tweaking positions over several days before we had success with our first UDP data transfers,” said the 22-year AT&T veteran.
Chris Hristov remembers the day more than a year ago when, in a mobile van, he first saw a 5G connection using prototype gear over a mmWave band push a test gauge to 4 Gbits/s.
“It was an amazing feat for someone who’s been around since the TDMA days of 100-Kbits/s speeds,” said the AT&T director of radio-network engineering.
Todd Zeiler, a director who works out cellular road maps with AT&T’s vendors, agreed that 5G is a new kind of beast. “I joined when 1G was wrapping up and we were launching 2G for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics,” said the 25-year AT&T veteran.
“Everybody remembers when they first saw LTE on their handset — it was exciting. We need to explain that we have a fork in the road now. Millimeter wave will have a similar improvement, but sub-6 is about a more efficient interface with improved latency — it’s not about speed-doubling.” He added, “5G is not a day, but an evolution.”
Building a new cellular network “is a team sport,” said Bill Goodman, an Ericsson engineer who works with rival Verizon.
Ericsson and others host labs where multiple vendors link and test systems before carriers put them in the field. In early December, Ericsson’s Plano, Texas, lab was hosting trials of 5G carrier aggregation, he said.
The test labs have been critical because the 3GPP specs are rapidly evolving. “It’s a constant process of [vendor] negotiations and testing, and we are at the center of it,” said AT&T’s Orloff.
For example, the June specs that AT&T is using for its initial services were followed by updates in September that 3GPP leaders said most others will use for their first commercial services. Thus, AT&T plans in early 2019 to upgrade its 5G networks and devices that will go live in late December to the 3GPP’s September specs.
“We recently discovered some backward-compatibility issues moving from the June to September specs,” said Mansfield. “It’s a software upgrade for the device and the network — both sides simultaneously.”
“We’ve gotten pretty successful with over-the-air updates,” he added. “Some time ago, this would have scared the hell out of me, but now [they are successful] in the high 90% range.”
“You make tough decisions in the huddle,” said Zeiler. “Do you wait for September standards and push back a commercial launch?”
“There’s pros and cons of early learnings,” he added. “[Using] June specs … puts more pressure on peers in the scrum room, [but what] we will learn is invaluable — Powerpoint only teaches you so much.”
December brought more spec updates in a process that will continue for some time. All of the initial 5G specs are based on so-called Option 3x that uses LTE for control signals. Specs for Option 2, a standalone 5G network, will come later. Systems based on them will probably be deployed starting in late 2019 or early 2020, said Zeiler.
5G takes carriers to mmWave bands at 28 GHz and up, a stratosphere new to them, presenting some of their biggest challenges. The bands will deliver both broadband mobile and fixed-wireless access services, ultimately at multi-gigabit rates.
However, the merged antenna and radio systems that deliver the fast data rates have limited reach. So carriers must deploy many of them, spawning both technical issues of how to steer their refined beams and business issues of getting approvals to place them on streetlights and buildings.
AT&T took its latest “aesthetically pleasing” 3D mock-ups of the radio cells to their first two city government meetings in late November. Their internals are slated for software upgrades in 2019 that enhance beam-forming capabilities not expected to be mature until sometime in 2020, said Zeiler.
“A high-powered mmWave system is being deployed now, and we will see a smaller version toward the end of 2019,” he said.
“We’re working in the Small Cell Forum to drive municipalities to set regulations that make small cells easier to deploy,” said Orloff, who chairs the trade group.
So far, about a third of U.S. states are on board. “We expected another third this year, but I’m not sure how far we got — we just need to continue working through it,” said Orloff, noting that operators are likely to give states with unfriendly regulations lower priority for 5G deployments.
Out in the field, RF engineers such as Hristov have been getting their first experiences laying out mmWave nets. The work is difficult, but so far, coverage and data rates have generally been better than expected.
Typical cellular waves are about 17 inches long. By contrast, 5G’s mmWaves measure just a third of an inch. “We’ve had 20 years of experience how sub-6 GHz penetrates and bounces off buildings,” said Hristov. “Now, in mmWave, it’s a new frontier, and our knowledge is evolving.”
“We used to throw up an antenna and cover a 3-mile radius,” he added. “Now, sometimes you expect the signal to be there and it isn’t, so you have to adjust.”
Carriers are learning beam-forming techniques in the field.
“As you move through the coverage area, you will be served by different beams, and you have to understand transitions between beams,” said Hristov. “RF engineers have to be hyper-accurate about placing and facing nodes … [because] if you don’t land on the right beam, you won’t get maximum performance.”
“It will take years to get to the point where you have the right tooling to accurately predict what you are trying to cover and serve,” he added.
The good news is that carriers are getting faster data rates and better coverage with mmWaves than they expected. “The reflections become your friend … bank shots are very real and extend your coverage … the urban canyon nightmare in sub-6 now is your friend,” said Mansfield.
For its part, Verizon used 5G mmWaves for residential services that it launched in October in four U.S. cities, with plans next year for mobile services. The fixed wireless access service “promised 300 Mbits/s, but routinely, we’re experiencing much higher — closing in on a gigabit,” said Nicki Palmer, chief network engineering officer and head of wireless networks for Verizon.
She showed a video of engineers getting rates from 780 Mbits/s to 1.04 Gbits/s in field tests at distances up to 3,000 feet, sometimes in rain or through foliage.
“We were assuming we would mount radios at a certain height and hit sixth-floor apartments at 28 GHz, but it turned out that we got close to the 19th floor,” she said. “When that came to light, it changed our assumptions about how much it costs and how to deploy it.”
One analyst said that he upgraded his estimates for mmWave services based on the latest field results, but he remains skeptical.
“There are still multiple technical and business hurdles before fixed wireless access can consume a large portion of the home/enterprise market” dominated by cable TV providers, said Stefan Pongratz, a telecom analyst at Dell’Oro Group. “In addition to propagation challenges as a result of obstacles in the path, technicians are still required to install the home gateway — a significant cost and time burden.”
Today, much of the 5G focus is in the radio-access network. But late next year, carriers will start upgrading their core and transport networks for 5G. They will also start distributing elements of the core out to the edge of the network to support new, low-latency services.
As the mmWave nets push into multi-gigabit territory, “you have to rethink how transport works and size these things to deal with that amount of data and latency,” said Hristov. “You can’t have one central core serving this whole country, so you have to move the core closer to the edge.”
In the middle of the network, carriers will upgrade interfaces to new Ethernet and eCPRI standards. “So far, we’ve been using 10-Gbit/s links to ensure the transport layer is a non-factor in these deployments,” he said.
Carriers are already experimenting in LTE with two techniques to bring core services to the edge of the network.
CUPS is a 3GPP virtualization standard for Control/User Plane Separation, made part of Release 14 last year. MEC is an ETSI standard for Multi-access Edge Computing that lets users host some of their cellular data in local servers for faster response or better security.
The techniques aim to open up new uses of cellular network for things like hosting local analytics for video, location services, content and data caching, and emerging applications for augmented/virtual reality and the internet of things.
“People are working through questions of when to use CUPS and MEC,” said Zeiler. “Which one do you use (it’s a sort of Beta-versus-VHS debate), and how do you scale and operate these techniques?”
Survey: Awareness, expectations for 5G are high
5G comes in third in consumer awareness, just behind virtual reality and artificial intelligence, when ranked against other cutting-edge technologies, with 57% of consumers surveyed saying they’re aware of the innovation. HarrisX CEO and chief researcher Dritan Nesho noted that “expectations are high, with over 2 in 3 Americans believing 5G will become a reality by 2020, which will require significant investment by the public and private sector to get there.”
“Consumer sentiment around tech innovation and 5G in particular is widely positive, with big expectations for impact on job creation, business, various facets of people’s personal lives like healthcare management in the near future,” said Dritan Nesho, chief researcher and CEO of HarrisX, in a statement. “Expectations are high, with over two in three Americans believing 5G will become a reality by 2020, which will require significant investment by the public and private sector to get there.”
The inaugural survey, which T-Mobile plans to produce on a quarterly basis with HarrisX going forward, found that 57% of Americans are aware of 5G, and of those who are aware, 90% believe 5G will be better than 4G or LTE. Moreover, 64% of the survey respondents who are aware of 5G expect it to be “widely available” by 2020. Reliability, speed and wider coverage were all cited as the most appealing aspects of 5G among those surveyed.
5G Wireless has grown to encompass a plurality of technologies, among them separate classes of wireless antennas for delivering different categories of wireless fixed and mobile services. Telecom industry experts are now concerned that the US’ two largest carriers may be simply rebranding faster 4G Wireless and home Internet services, particularly to trigger the revenue boots they need to fund the multiple infrastructure transitions necessary to make 5G happen.
The “5G Evolution” plan involves AT&T’s introduction of a technology built on top of the existing 4G LTE platform, called LTE-License Assisted Access (LTE-LAA). It’s a mechanism for increasing 4G bandwidth by dynamically allocating channels in the 5 GHz band of the spectrum. And there’s where the confusion begins, because the similarity of “5 GHz” and “5G” are, at best, coincidental — or perhaps, as the legendary former marketing chief of Apple, Jean-Louis Gassée, called it this week, “markitecture.”
Consider the following:
None of the transmission equipment is actually the same. The key purpose of 5G, as it was originally conceived and tested in the US, Europe, and China, is to replace the world’s transmission system with one that is easier and much less costly to maintain than 4G. 5G networks may eventually utilize 4G towers, but not 4G or 3G transmitters.
None of the phones are the same. On the customer side of the equation, since the architecture of mobile devices’ chassis is geared around their antennas, 5G phones — the kind capable of receiving very-high-bandwidth, millimeter-wave (mmWave) transmissions — will be different phones.
In the near-term, Wi-Fi could suffer. Though both telcos and Wi-Fi industry leaders talk about co-existence, the de facto agreement their respective technologies lead to is one where LTE-LAA signals muscle into territories where 802.11ac signals reside, and Wi-Fi politely make room for them. LTE signals are obviously stronger, designed to cover much greater distances. While existing Wi-Fi routers are designed to manage signal contention, their own ability to make room for their own channels could be degraded.
The 5G technologies that make headway at CES 2019 will not include LTE-LAA. Smartphone and device manufacturers perceive their own evolutionary path to 5G, which involves helping along the obsolescence of 4G — leading customers to make the leap off the old networks. Although carriers may urgently need to maximize their 4G revenue streams in order to afford their own 5G transitions, manufacturers such as Apple (which used to avoid CES, but won’t this year) now desperately need 5G to establish the baseline for their next generations, in a market which many experts are perceiving as already saturated and in danger of commoditization.
Even with these clear and contentious boundaries between wireless technologies, AT&T confirmed last month it plans to upgrade the software of some of its customers’ existing phones this spring, in areas where its 4G transmitters are being upgraded with LTE-LAA, to register a “5G E” icon instead of a “4G” icon.
AT&T offers this official explanation: “We’re laying the 5G network foundation with 5G Evolution and LTE-LAA. In technology terms, that means we’re upgrading cell towers with LTE Advanced features like 256 QAM, 4×4 MIMO [antenna multiplexing], and 3-way carrier aggregation. These technologies serve as the runway to 5G by boosting the existing LTE network and priming it for the future of connectivity. We can enable faster speeds now, and upgrade to 5G when it’s ready.”
AT&T expands 5G+ network to California, Austin, Nashville, and Orlando
Less than four months after launching a mobile 5G network in parts of 12 U.S. cities, AT&T today expanded the network’s footprint with seven additional locations. The expansion includes the carrier’s first four 5G offerings in the state of California, as well as single-city additions in Florida, Tennessee, and Texas.
AT&T’s 5G+ coverage list now includes some of California’s most populous cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. The carrier has also added Florida’s most popular tourist destination, Orlando, plus the capitals of Texas and Tennessee, Austin and Nashville, respectively. As was the case before, AT&T says its service is available in “select areas” of the cities, rather than completely covering them.
Unlike other carriers, AT&T is specifically marketing three different types of “5G” service. The company differentiates between 5G+ based on millimeter wave technology, a slower but nationwide blanket of 5G, and its controversial, lawsuit-provoking “5G Evolution,” which is actually just late-stage 4G technology using speed-enhancing features. Today’s expansions are all 5G+ specific.
One notable omission from today’s list is Las Vegas, Nevada, which was on AT&T’s list of expected “early 2019” 5G+ cities last September. Its place appears to have been taken by Austin for the time being.
AT&T currently offers 5G+ service using a single device: Netgear’s Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot. Unlike rival Verizon, which is now offering an early 5G smartphone option online and in select stores, AT&T’s Nighthawk sales page still doesn’t have a “buy now” link, instead asking customers “interested in trying out the Nighthawk” to provide contact information for an email or phone pitch.
Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G is expected to become available for AT&T’s 5G+ network this spring, while a subsequent Samsung phone will connect to AT&T’s 5G+ and 5G towers. LG’s less expensive V50 ThinQ 5G phone is not yet expected to become available for AT&T 5G customers.
AT&T is touting successful completion of a data transfer field test using spectrum in the sub-6 GHz range as a step closer to reaching its goal of providing 5G service across by US by the first half of 2020. The company thinks that a mixture of spectrum on all bands will offer the best balance of speed and coverage, the carrier’s Igal Elbaz wrote.
AT&T CFO John Stephens remarks on “bundling services” at Citi TMT conference Jan 2020:
We’re going to have a national footprint on 5G this year in our core network. We already have 35 cities up and running for the 5G+ service and about 20 cities up and running for 5G (?) in our core network.
But — so they (AT&T customers) will be able to consume wireless services, but also data, also entertainment. They will use it as their — not only their wireless, but their broadband, wireless broadband. And we’ll be the provider who can have the ability to do that, not only from a traditional postpaid account, but a prepaid account or with our capacity, even resellers.
Secondly, on the fiber side or on the whole broadband side, the ability to bundle that with video, the ability to bundle that with wireless services. The ability to bundle that with a full TV package clearly have that advantage, whether it be AT&T TV, whether it be our wireless services, whether it be our fiber-to-the-home.
as new 5G comes out, we’re going to have just, quite frankly, a really unique intersection. We have a network that’s, quite frankly, ahead of devices, which is the first time that’s really happened. And so we’re going to have a national footprint. By the middle of the year, we’ll have great speeds, great — and it will continue to improve and grow throughout the end of the year.
In the middle of this year, we’ll have HBO Max coming out, and we’ll have tremendous packages for our wireless customers to bundle with those. And then we’re going to have new 5G phones come out throughout the year. We have some out today, but they will be coming out throughout the year. And when you put that grouping in place as an offer for customers who are looking throughout the year and certainly in the second half of the year, that’s a tremendous magnet for those customers, a really attractive situation. So, we feel really good about where we’re at.
But I would — in short order, I would think, people are going to consume broadband data in much the same way they do today, but it’s going to be higher demands for speed, more continuing demands for bundling, continuing demands, growing demands for video, and we feel like we’re going to be really extremely well-positioned to play in that market.
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