What is 5G? Here’s everything you need to know

5G's arrival is transforming tech. Here's everything you need to know to keep up

You’re starting on page 2 of this, click here to start at the beginning.

When will we see 5G?

cq5dam web 1280

So when should you expect to see 5G in your neighborhood? That question is a little more difficult to answer than you’d expect. All of the major U.S. carriers are working furiously to build out 5G networks, yet deployment across the entire country will nonetheless take several years.

It’s also worth noting each carrier has a different 5G rollout strategy. This means your 5G experience may vary greatly depending on your carrier. Here are all the details we currently have concerning each carrier’s deployment plans. If you’re looking specifically for phones, check out our guide to the 5G phones that are coming (and already here!).

Verizon

artice image mobile world congress 2
Verizon

In its quest to be the first carrier to provide 5G, Verizon began offering pre-standard fixed 5G in homes in October 2018. Verizon’s fixed 5G service is currently available in portions of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.

America’s largest carrier is rolling out standards-based mobile 5G in 2019; it’s rolling out 5G on higher frequency spectrum known as mmWave (28-39GHz). That means that while Verizon’s 5G will offer blazing fast speeds when available, it will piggyback off its LTE spectrum for years to come. 20 cities will get standards-based 5G in 2019, with the first to be Minneapolis and Chicago.

As for hardware, Verizon has already announced two mobile 5G devices. First up is the 5G version of the Samsung Galaxy S10, but the carrier also supports the 5G Moto Mod for the Moto Z3. And we can’t forget the Inseego Mi-Fi 5G hotspot, featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip.

Keep up with Verizon’s 5G rollout

AT&T

AT&T officially won the race to be the first carrier to roll out true 5G service. In December 2018, the carrier began offering  5G in parts of Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco. In early 2019, AT&T will deploy 5G to parts of Orlando, Las Vegas, Nashville, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.

AT&T is initially limiting its 5G service to a select group of businesses and consumers. It plans to provide free service and equipment to this group for at least three months, before rolling out the service to a larger audience. When the service is available to the general public in early 2019, it will initially be available as hot spot service, coming in at $70 a month for 15GB of data.

Like Verizon, AT&T is rolling out its mobile 5G on mmWave spectrum. In an interview with Urgent Communications, Dave Wolter, assistant vice president of radio technology and strategy for AT&T Labs, offered some insight into what you should expect with the carrier’s 5G service initially. “If you’re in a downtown urban environment — where it’s going to be pretty much line of sight until you go around a corner — that’s one thing … If you have a street lined with trees, that’s going to be a different environment. If you’re in a heavily treed environment, that’s going to be difficult. All of those things are going to impact the kind of range that we can anticipate.”

While the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will initially only be available on Verizon, eventually it’ll come to AT&T too. The Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot was also announced by the carrier earlier this year.

When it comes to fixed 5G service, it’s going to be a little bit longer. Trade publication SDX Central reports AT&T will roll out fixed LTE service in late 2019 over the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum and eventually migrate to 5G service.

Keep up with AT&T’s 5G rollout

T-Mobile

America’s Un-Carrier is taking a more measured approach. Instead of racing to be first out of the gate, T-Mobile wants to provide a more reliable service with more coverage area. In early 2018, T-Mobile announced it was building out its 5G network in 30 cities. Expect to see T-Mobile 5G in 30 cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Las Vegas in late 2019. The carrier plans to offer 5G nationwide by 2020.

T-Mobile’s 5G deployment strategy is completely different than that of AT&T or Verizon. Instead of using mmWave for its initial rollout, it is using low-band spectrum (600MHz). For customers, that means a more reliable, but slower 5G network with fairly low-latency. That said, T-Mobile is also aggressively building out its 5G network on 28GHz and mid-band spectrum to provide additional speed and capacity.

For fixed 5G, it looks like T-Mobile wants to make some serious waves. In a statement submitted to the FCC, T-Mobile said it projects more than 1.9 million in-home wireless broadband customers by 2021. By 2024, the carrier wants to provide fixed 5G to more than half the ZIP codes in the U.S., and be the nations fourth largest in-home ISP.

Since T-Mobile CEO John Legere has publicly lambasted AT&T and Verizon for launching its 5G with mobile hot spots, it’s a pretty safe bet the carrier doesn’t plan to release its own hot spot. Instead, T-Mobile will eventually carry the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, though it won’t be until the second half of the year.

Keep up with T-Mobile’s 5G rollout

Sprint

Like T-Mobile, Sprint is not racing to be first in the 5G race. The carrier announced it will deploy 5G in early 2019 in New York City, Phoenix, Kansas City, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. First up will be Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City, which will get the service in May. Additional markets will be added in the near future.

Sprint will initially launch its 5G network on its extensive mid-band spectrum (2.5 GHz). That’s the same spectrum the carrier uses for its 4G data network, and it plans to use 128-radio massive MIMO equipment on its towers to create a 4G/5G split. Since Sprint is one of the few carriers with lots of extra 2.5GHz spectrum, it can use the excess mid-band to roll out 5G service quickly and relatively inexpensively in larger cities.

When it comes to hardware, Sprint has actually promised three 5G products for 2019. The carrier announced in August 2018 that it would partner with LG to release a 5G smartphone in the first half of 2019, which we now know to be the LG V50 ThinQ. Sprint also announced a 5G Mobile Smart Hub with HTC, and eventually, the carrier will also support the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.

Keep up with Sprint’s 5G rollout

T-Mobile and Sprint merger

So what happens if T-Mobile and Sprint merge? Well, both companies claim the merger would be good for the economy and the country. The companies also claim that together as the New T-Mobile, it would have the assets and spectrum on multiple bands to become the first nationwide 5G carrier.

While the combined bandwidth of the two companies would almost certainly lead to a faster, and more reliable, nationwide 5G rollout, there are some issues. For starters, there would be fewer options in the already anemic U.S. carrier market. And that means less competition for both consumers and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

There’s also the issue of foreign ownership. T-Mobile’s parent company is German company Deutsche Telekom, and Sprint is owned by Japanese investment giant SoftBank. While Deutsche Telekom may not raise eyebrows during the FCC or DOJ review, there’s a small chance these agencies may take issue with SoftBank since it has significant ties with Chinese telecom companies.

Mobile

Speed is everything: Using 5G in the U.K. on the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G

You can buy a 5G phone and connect to a 5G network in the UK right now; but what's it like when you do? Armed with a OnePlus 7 Pro 5G and a 5G SIM on the EE network, we've been walking the streets of London to find out.
Android

You can pre-order the Galaxy S10 5G from Sprint starting today

Samsung announced a whopping four new Galaxy S10 devices, from the low-cost S10e to the triple-camera S10 and S10 Plus. But it's the Galaxy S10 5G that steals the show, as it's the first 5G-ready smartphone to hit the market.
Mobile

The modern Moto Z4 is now available straight from Verizon

The Moto Z3 was the first phone to support 5G, but now it has a successor: The Moto Z4. The new phone doesn't offer anything we haven't seen before, but it does bring back the headphone jack.
Mobile

U.K. network Three promises fastest 5G connection for its 25 launch cities

5G will launch on all major networks in the U.K. during 2019. Here are all the details from Vodafone, EE, O2, and Three UK to help you get onboard with the right carrier, and choose the right phone.
Deals

The Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphone gets a $100 price cut on Amazon

The Samsung Galaxy S10 sits right in the middle of the phone maker's 2019 lineup. But despite its middle child status, the S10 is a great phone. And we've found a deal on an unlocked version on Amazon that will save you $100 this weekend.
Mobile

Samsung dismisses rumors of a revitalized Galaxy Fold launching in July

The Samsung Galaxy Fold is real, but for how long? Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.
Mobile

5 features I’d like to see in Google’s Pixel 4 smartphone

We’ve had a sneak peek at Google’s forthcoming Pixel 4 smartphone, and it offers few clues about what we’ll get. These are the 5 features I’d like to see Google include to take the Pixel line to the next level.
Mobile

Huawei's folding phone held back for more tests, will be released in September

The Huawei Mate X is an exciting 5G folding smartphone with stunning looks. The Mate X has three screens, a clever hinge system, and a Leica camera. All the details you need to know are right here.
Mobile

These are the best Moto Z4 cases to boost your new phone’s longevity

The Moto Z4 is the newest way to experience Motorola's flagship range. But just because it's cheap, doesn't mean that it's expendable. Make sure your new and beautiful Moto Z4 survives for a long time with one of the best Moto Z4 cases.
Mobile

Pixel 4 gets spotted in real world, showing not even Google can stop the leaks

Rumors abound about the Google Pixel 4, Google's next Pixel phone following the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a. Getting around the leaks, Google straight-up teased an image of the back of the phone. Here's what you need to know.
Home Theater

Diagnose and fix some common Apple AirPods problems with our handy guide

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
Deals

Fitbit Versa and Samsung Gear fitness smartwatches get big Amazon price cuts

Some of the best options can get pretty pricey, but with smartwatch discounts on the Fitbit Versa and Samsung Gear Sport, they are really quite affordable right now. You can save up to $125 on a new fitness watch.
Mobile

Huawei’s lock screen ads were a mistake, but may be a sign of things to come

Ads were placed on the lock screen of Huawei device owners yesterday, causing outcry on forums and social media. Huawei initially said it wasn't responsible, but that's no longer the case. Here's what happened.
Mobile

These are the best Pixel 3a XL cases and covers to protect your Google phone

If you want to change up the look or feel of your new Google phone, you want some decent drop protection, or both, then we have you covered with this list of the best Google Pixel 3a XL cases and covers.
2 of 4