5G at MWC 2019: All the major announcements from U.S. carriers

At Mobile World Congress, a spotlight usually shines on new and improved smartphones, and this year was no different. From the LG V50 ThinQ to the Sony Xperia 10, a number of handset announcements were made at MWC. But handsets are only part of the news from the show. Carriers made some big announcements too — especially when it comes to the deployment of 5G.

Here are all the 5G announcements from the major U.S. carriers at Mobile World Congress 2019.

AT&T

AT&T had a relatively quiet MWC when it comes to 5G, but that doesn’t mean it stayed completely silent. In fact, during the show AT&T Business CEO Thaddeus Arroyo gave an interview with ZDNet, noting that the company’s arguably misleading “5G E” branding is distinct from what will eventually become its actual 5G service.

“I think if you look at 5GE — and this is the evolution platform that we’ve created, and then that will become the foundation upon which we build 5G — these are two separate platforms,” Arroyo said in the interview. “So what’s important for us is when a customer is in a 5GE environment, which ultimately provides them access to faster speeds when they have the right device. When they have the right network, we want them to know they’re in an environment that’s going to perform better. That’s really the nature of it, but they’re two distinct, separate platforms.”

Ever since the 5G E branding was first launched, there has been backlash. That’s because what AT&T is called “5G Evolution” is technically 4G LTE Advanced, the latest version of LTE.

Sprint

Perhaps the biggest 5G-related news from MWC came from Sprint, which announced that it will be launching its initial 5G network as soon as May. At launch, 5G will only be available across 20 square miles in Chicago, 120 square miles in Atlanta, 230 square miles in Dallas-Fort Worth, and 110 square miles in Kansas City — though the service will roll out to Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, and Washington D.C. in the first half of 2019.

Sprint also mentioned that its 5G network will be available on Google Fi, Google’s carrier that uses Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks. It’s not currently known how much, if at all, the launch of 5G will impact Google Fi’s pricing.

There are a few major differences between Sprint’s 5G and the 5G we expect from other carriers. Sprint doesn’t own licenses to any millimeter wave frequency bands, so it’ll only use the mid-band spectrum that Sprint does own. The first 5G-compatible phone available on Sprint will be the LG V50 ThinQ, which was also announced at MWC 2019.

T-Mobile

While T-Mobile didn’t really have much of a presence at Mobile World Congress, during the show it made a rather disappointing announcement — that it’ll be delaying the launch of its mobile 5G network to the second half of 2019. Originally, the carrier was supposed to launch mobile 5G in the first half of 2019.

Verizon

In the days leading up to Mobile World Congress, Verizon announced that it would launch its mobile 5G service in 30 cities in the first half of 2019, though it didn’t mention exactly which cities it would launch in. With the launch, Verizon could be the first to launch a real, standards-based, nationwide 5G network — though we’ll have to wait and see exactly when the launch takes place.

Verizon also announced that it would be getting a number of 5G smartphones in 2019. For starters, there’s the Moto Z3 with its 5G Moto Mod. Then there’s the new Galaxy S10 5G, followed by the LG V50 ThinQ, which will be available on Verizon in the summer following a period of Sprint exclusivity.

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