When Will AT&T First Launch 5G?

Dan Jones
11/20/2018

Hey kids! Get ready to jump around like pardoned turkeys on Thanksgiving Day, because AT&T's much-ballyhooed 5G service is almost here! At least, that's what AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) executives have recently said.

The operator's communications group CEO John Donovan said on October 24 that AT&T's first 5G market would go live in "the next few weeks." (See AT&T Promises Initial Mobile 5G Launch in 'Weeks'.)

"We're excited about the prospects next year because this thing is turning real here in a few weeks," said AT&T's VP of Enterprise Mobility, Robert Boyanovsky, during a panel discussion in Dallas on November 1. (See The 5G Enterprise Conversation.)

So, 5G could become a reality for AT&T before the end of the month, if these statements hold true.

Oh, and I'm not talking about AT&T's faux 5G -- a.k.a. "5G Evolution" -- which is 4G LTE-Advanced anyway. (See AT&T Rolls Out Faux 5G in 100+ US Markets.)

Now only a select few will be able to get a taste of AT&T's actual 5G. The operator has said it will first launch in parts of one market in the US. It will offer customers the Netgear Inc. (Nasdaq: NTGR) Nighthawk 5G hotspot (a.k.a. "mobile puck") as its first device. (See AT&T Reveals First Commercial 5G Device.)

AT&T has said nothing about its pricing for either the 5G service itself or the mobile puck. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), however, appears to put a stake in the ground with $70 a month -- or $50 for existing Verizon Wireless subs -- pricin for its fixed service. (See Verizon's Home-Grown 5G Arrives Today.)

AT&T's first 5G foray will almost undoubtedly use millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies (likely 28GHz), as AT&T's 5G tests have. This will probably lead to questions about how much "mobile" it really is, even if the operator is using the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 5G standard.

Previous fixed testing has seen speeds of 1.4 Gbit/s to 600 Mbit/s, but over distances of 1,000 to 2,000 feet. AT&T has not detailed the coverage it will initially offer with mmWave 5G, but it appears it will probably be small hot zones, supported by a blanket of 4G. (See AT&T's 'Mobile' 5G: What the Puck?)

As I've reported, AT&T is planning some millimeter wave tests, and is showing off 5G gear in Atlanta this weekend. (See AT&T Readies More High-Band 5G Tests as Mobile Launch Nears .)

Overall, the operator plans to launch in parts of 12 markets in the US with 5G before the end of the year. It has named 19 more towns and cities for 2019. (See 5G in the USA: Fall Edition for more on rollouts.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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