AT&T has set a date to launch its mobile 5G network, and the good news is that it’s happening this week.
There might be some elements of this news that some might consider bad news, though. But we’ll get to that. First and foremost, AT&T has set Friday, December 21, as the date that its 5G mobile network, what it’s calling 5G+ and based on the mmWave spectrum technology, will go live. That means that in some cities across the United States, 5G speeds will be accessible. Technically. But you’ll need a device that actually supports the wireless technology.
First, the markets, where 5G+ is actually already turned on in preparation for this upcoming Friday:
“Our standards-based mobile 5G network is live today in parts of 12 cities: Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio and Waco, Texas.”
Moving on to the first half of next year, AT&T says it will expand its mobile 5G network to 7 additional markets: “Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif”, making sure to note here that 5G+ will only be available in parts of these cities to start, so it won’t be available everywhere even if you have the proper equipment to access it.
So, how can you use AT&T’s 5G+ network right out of the gate? That will take a mobile hotspot from NETGEAR called the Nighthawk 5G Mobil Hotspot. It’s launching at the end of this week for a small pool of AT&T customers, with the big blue network selecting some business customers and general consumers to try out the mobile hotspot for free for 90 days.
And then, in the spring of 2019, AT&T’s first mobile 5G hotspot will cost $499 up front, and then customers will have to pay $70 per month for 15GB of 5G+ data. So it won’t be cheap, and customers won’t have unlimited data on their 5G+ mobile hotspot.
AT&T’s announcement makes no bones about being happy to say it’s the first network to launch a mobile 5G network, and that’s certainly a noteworthy milestone. But the initial rollout is small, and while AT&T says it will be aggressive about expansion from this week on, even the first additional markets in the early stages of 2019 are small. It will take some time before 5G is actually available for most AT&T customers out there in the wild.
And what about the folks who are sticking with the iPhone leading into the arrival of 5G? Well, you’ll be waiting a bit longer. Intel unveiled its 5G modem not too long ago and it’s not expected to launch until 2020. And, indeed, a followup report indicated that Apple is planning its first 5G iPhone launch in 2020. That’s not a bad thing, because waiting to get a 5G device out there just means more markets will actually support the wireless technology, which means more iPhone customers can actually take advantage of it.