Sprint may soon merge with T-Mobile, but the company is hardly holding back when it comes to innovation. It’s still hard at work on 5G, and plans to roll out the next generation of cellular connectivity to its customers. In fact, the company recently announced that it’s doubling its quarterly investment to $1.4 billion — largely because of the deployment of 5G. That’s great news to anyone currently on Sprint — and it could end up being good news for T-Mobile customers, too.
But wait, what is 5G, anyway? The fifth generation of wireless networks, or 5G, has been nearly a decade in the making, and it’s finally becoming a reality. Promising dramatically faster speeds, instantaneous communication, and the ability to network everything, 5G has incredible potential. Limited rollout of the service began in select cities in 2018, and mobile 5G will start appearing in cities around the U.S. in 2019, with much more comprehensive rollouts expected in 2020. For its part, Sprint promises to begin its mobile 5G rollout in the first half of 2019 to nine markets, include some of the largest cities in the country. Here’s everything you need to know about Sprint’s rollout of 5G.
While Verizon and AT&T are primarily rolling out on millimeter wave spectrum, Sprint has a completely different deployment strategy. The carrier will use excess 2.5GHz spectrum to initially build its 5G network.
In addition to hosting Sprint’s LTE service, this mid-band spectrum will also be home to its upcoming 5G service. The carrier is building out its towers with 128-antenna massive MIMO equipment to create a 4G/5G split. This decision will allow Sprint to roll out its service quickly and less expensively than other carriers.
While rolling out 5G on mid-band may allow Sprint to deploy quickly and inexpensively, the strategy is not without pitfalls. Mid-band 5G does not offer the same fast speeds and low latency you’ll see on other providers with mmWave. It also doesn’t cover a large area and does a poor job of penetrating through walls and some glasses.
Keep in mind that although Sprint will initially roll out on mid-band, it will continue to build its 5G network on other bands as well. And if Sprint successfully merges with T-Mobile in the coming months, New T-Mobile may be the first to have a robust, nationwide 5G network.
Sprint will begin rolling out its mobile 5G network in early 2019. The first cities to experience Sprint’s 5G network will be Atlanta, New York City, Kansas City, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. Additional markets will be added in the future, and if Sprint does merge with T-Mobile you can expect to see its network rollout very quickly.
In terms of hardware, Sprint wants to make a big splash. The carrier has already announced three products for 2019, though we wouldn’t be surprised to see more.
At CES 2019, the company announced that it will release a 5G-enabled Samsung phone to consumers in the summer of 2019. Details are still unknown, although, it’ll likely use the Qualcomm X50 modem, which is only compatible with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor — so it’s likely that the phone will be at least flagship-tier, even if it’s not part of Samsung’s known flagship series.
In August 2018, Sprint announced it would partner with LG to release a 5G smartphone in the first half of 2019. In November, the carrier announced it would release an HTC-branded Mobile Smart Hub at the beginning of 2019 as well.
Sprint has yet to announce any fixed 5G plans. The carrier did, however, tell PCMag that its Mobile Smart Hub will be good enough for many to use as their primary home internet connection.
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