We're less than two weeks away from initial 5G handsets and prototypes arriving on the shores of sunny Barcelona at Mobile World Congress, but there's a good reason to look before you leap to a new handset on the next generation of wireless networks.
Here's what we can expect at Mobile World Congress:
We expect Samsung Corp. to launch its S10 line, including a 5G model in San Francisco next week, gaining a march on device rivals at MWC. In fact, Samsung appears to have prepped to be the key 5G supplier to US operators in 2019.
Samsung is likely to deliver many of the early 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 5G New Radio (5G NR)-capable phones in the first half of 2019. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) have already said they will have 5G phones ready in the first half of 2019, using high-band millimeter-wave frequencies.
While, as T-Mobile US Inc. CTO Neville Ray declared recently, "multimode" 5G handsets will be available later in the second half of 2019.
Although, we can expect to see a prototype 5G phone from LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , working with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s 2.5GHz 5G network, coming in the first half of 2019.
What this means -- for the general consumer -- is that it would be better to wait for multimode handsets to arrive later on in 2019. The early millimeter-wave (mmWave) 5G phones (in the first half of this year) are going to have limited coverage in small amounts of US cities.
Verizon is holding off on further fixed 5G deployments until standard 3GPP chipsets arrive later this year, and AT&T is planning mmWave deployments in parts of 21 US cities. Because of those differing approaches, early mmWave 5G coverage is going to be very limited for the first 5G phones. Because of the "dual connectivity" scheme with 5G, where a 5G device maintains a 4G connection at all times, most early users of 5G phones will likely find themselves connected to 4G most of the time.
- A 5G Device Timeline for 2019
- Verizon Plans to Offer Samsung 5G Phone in H1 2019
- Now AT&T Promises Samsung 5G Phone in Spring 2019, Too
- T-Mobile Won't Charge a Premium for 5G
- Sprint Sues AT&T Over '5G E' Branding
- Analyst Maps Verizon 5G in Sacramento, Finds 'Pretty Sparse' Coverage
- AT&T Adds 2 More US Cities to 5G Plans in 2019
- Sprint Reveals 3 More 5G Cities, Promises 'Cool' 5G Phone & Small Cell
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading