Why be first? T-Mobile and Sprint announced yesterday that they plan to have 5G service in a few cities in 2019, well after AT&T and even Verizon plan on having their service active. According to BGR and other sources, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC will have Sprint 5G service sometime in the next 18 months or so.
Not to be outdone, T-Mobile announced that they too will have 5G, starting in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Las Vegas. Eventually. In fact T-Mobile plans on offering 5G service in 30 cities, sooner or later. Most likely by the time this plan is fully implemented, AT&T will have 5G in plenty more cities than that.
All snarkiness aside, this timeline is actually pretty good. AT&T will have its 5G service up and running this year but no one has announced a 5G phone publicly yet. It’s a safe bet that the next generation of Galaxies, iPhones, and other premium models will have 5G baked in but we know for sure the iPhone X and Galaxy S9 do not. This doesn’t mean you should put off getting a new phone, even those lucky people in Dallas who will be literally swimming in 5G by the end of next year.
Still, there is something to be said about being first, about defining the experience. When it came to 4G, Sprint was actually first out of the gate and their poor implementation probably set 4G back at least a year in people’s minds. There’s no doubt to me that AT&T will have a much better experience, starting with 5G mobile hotspots and moving onto premium phones with well-managed power consumption.
The race to 5G is perhaps the most important one in the cellular world since the first time people bought cell phones. 5G brings speeds so fast that it’s possible to abandon land-based internet, and it enables everything from augmented reality and real-time monitoring to 8K video, all from nearly anywhere on the planet. With 5G’s low latency, it becomes possible to do things like drone-based delivery and remote monitoring of vehicles that were never really possible with today’s internet, and that opens up a whole new world of not only communication but transportation.
A world where AT&T gets there first and Sprint gets there… eventually.