Quick-read summaries of 5G in 2019 for AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, smartphones and devices.
The topic of 5G in 2019 and 2020 is the primetime point of focus by CES keynote presenters, showcasing tech product innovators, and the first thing out of most attendees mouths.
In relation to its 4G LTE predecessor, 5G, which some are calling 5G NR or 5G LTE, is expected to deliver up to 60-times faster data speeds and latency than 4G LTE. This allows 5G to power robust IoT (internet of things) applications, connect smart homes, and propel many industries into unthinkable realms of innovation.
So, how does 5G work? While the technology varies slightly from cell carrier to cell carrier, the foundation of 5G remains the same. Essentially, 5G delivers better performance because there is a larger and higher frequency portion of the radiofreqency (RF) spectrum devoted to 5G transmissions. Quite simply, this allows for a higher volume of much faster transactions.
That’s not to say the transition to 5G will be instant. In fact, 4G LTE and even 3G networks will continue to be used long into the future as the 5G coverage map expands and in-building coverage causes serious problems for 5G.
Read this mini guide to see how AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint plan to deploy their 5G network and smartphone manufacturers develop consumer tech that can work with the new 5G frequencies.
AT&T 5G in 2019
AT&T’s plan for 5G in 2019 is focused on mobile applications using mmWave (millimeter wave). Based on what the company has shared, AT&T’s 5G network is delivering service to more cities than any other cellular carrier. Later in 2019 and early 2020 they will begin looking at 5G for fixed applications and rolling out a full national 5G network using low-and mid-band frequencies.
AT&T 5G Details
In the race to 5G, AT&T is currently leading the pack ahead of Verizon, which falls at a distant second as we start 2019. AT&T has focused its 5G network on mobile applications, rather than the fixed 5G every other carrier is most heavily pursuing.
The company is planning to roll out fixed 5G late in 2019. By the end of Q1 in 2019 the company anticipates mobile 5G service in 19 cities including Waco, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, Raleigh, San Antonio, Dallas, Charlotte, Houston, Jacksonville, Louisville, Atlanta, Nashville, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orlando, and Las Vegas.
AT&T claims that improving 4G is such a major step to 5G that they have begun branding their 4G network “5G Evolution.” During their trials, AT&T has used the mmWave spectrum at 28 GHz and 39 GHz. It’s expected that the 39 GHz spectrum will support AT&T’s initial mobile 5G rollout in the first half of 2019. Toward the end of the year 28 GHz and low-band, which the company formerly used for 3G, will be used to provide more wide-spanning 5G coverage.
Verizon 5G in 2019
Verizon has been more quiet about their 5G roll out at a city-specific level. However, we do know that the network is focused on providing very high-performance fixed 5G to densely populated cities using mmWave at 28 GHz. Then late in 2019 and early 2020 the company will be looking at rolling 5G out to a larger portion of the US using low- and mid-band frequencies, much like AT&T.
Verizon 5G Details
Verizon pre-standard fixed Home 5G is now available in sections of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento at $50 for current Verizon customers ($70 for non-subscribers). Some claim this is not technically 5G, but it delivers up to nearly 1 GBps data speeds, so most analysts are giving it the benefit of the doubt. The company has not yet released the names of other cities on their 5G roadmap.
Verizon will initially roll out its fixed 5G service on the mmWave spectrum at 28 GHz in Q1 of 2019 and, eventually, will expand the network to the mid- and low-band spectrum to deliver 5G service to a larger portion of the US. Verizon is pursuing the availability of mobile 5G in the second half of 2019.
T-Mobile 5G in 2019
T-Mobile is planning to launch slightly better than 4G data speeds with 5G at 600 MHz to deliver 5G to the largest swath of the US than any other carrier. T-Mobile is focused on reconnecting Puerto Rico using their 5G network. Later, in 2020, they will launch mmWave in the more densely populated cities to deliver the same high-performance 5G offered by AT&T and Verizon.
T-Mobile 5G Details
Straying from the same 5G roadmap as Verizon and AT&T, T-Mobile is focusing on providing full nationwide 5G coverage in the beginning of 2020 by using the 600 MHz low-band spectrum, which is already licensed for use across 100% of the US. Using the 600 MHz portion of the spectrum, the company completed their first data transmission in Spokane, Washington.
Although T-Mobile has not yet listed the cities that will have 5G on their network in 2019, the 600 MHz infrastructure is already installed in 992 cities across the US. After rolling out their 5G network at 600 MHz to deliver consistent and wide-spanning coverage, T-Mobile is expected to launch its own mmWave spectrum focused on more densely populated areas to deliver the kind of data speeds cellular customers would expect to receive from 5G.
Sprint 5G in 2019
Sprint is more budget conscious in their pursuit of a 5G network. They are investing in 5G while also focusing on continuing the expansion of their 4G LTE network. Depending on the merger with T-Mobile, the two could have a 5G and 4G LTE network that could give Verizon and AT&T a run for their money.
Sprint 5G Details
Sprint and T-Mobile appear to be working hard not to step on each other’s feet in the race to 5G, pending the FCC’s decision to approve the merger, which is expected to arrive in the Q2 of 2019. Sprint is focused on inexpensive excess mid-band spectrum at 2.5 GHz for their mobile 5G network, which they will begin rolling out in early 2019.
The first cities to receive mobile 5G on the Sprint network will be Kansas City, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Washington D.C, and New York City. Additionally, Sprint is retrofitting towers with Massive MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output) equipment to allow a 4G and 5G split tower. The company is also investing in their 800 MHz 4G LTE spectrum, which most of us will continue to use as 5G fails to penetrate into structures. Looking into 2020, the company will begin focusing more on 5G for fixed applications.
5G Smartphone & Device Summary
In the first half of 2019 we will begin seeing devices like the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Moto Z3 with Moto Mod. Sorry iPhone lovers, it looks like the first 5G compatible iPhone will arrive in 2020.
Amidst concerns that these devices will not support FDD networks, recent information about the Snapdragon 855 chip that will be used in 5G smartphones shows they will support multi-gigabit data speeds for 5G and will indeed work with all cellular generations: 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, and 5G.
Concerns About 5G Service
There is a serious 5G coverage problem with the higher-frequency signals that companies like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile will use to roll out their 5G networks; they cannot penetrate material or cover large distances. In fact, in-building coverage is such an issue that it has led AT&T to avoid fixed 5G applications entirely in most of 2019.
Cell customers in airports, stadiums, and outdoors in densely populated cities can expect to see reliable 5G service in the first half of 2019. As you might guess, everywhere else will have spotty, slow, or no 5G service at all. This will remain the case until the second half of 2019 or early 2020.
In these areas 4G LTE or even 3G will continue to be used as the fallback. In fact, all of the cellular companies are investing in expanding their 4G LTE service.
How to Solve the 5G Service Concerns
Signal boosters have become very popular as 4G LTE signals have struggled to provide in-building coverage. High-frequency 5G signals are expected to provide no indoor service at all without a cell signal booster or router.
The primary products suggested by experts are a 5G router or 5G signal booster. Here are four key differentiators between these solutions:
- Better 5G Service for Multiple Carriers: Carrier-provided routers are limited to delivering service for only their 5G network. In other words, if you need coverage for AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, you would need a router, and most likely a contract, for each carrier. Signal boosters are HetNet, which means they will work with every North American cell carrier without any monthly fees or contracts.
- Improving 3G, 4G LTE and 5G Service: Carrier-provided routers are specific to 5G service whereas a signal booster works with any cellular generation: 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, and 5G. Why is this important? Lower frequency 3G or 4G LTE signals cover more distance without losing strength. Which means severe weather may cause 5G signal issues whereas 3G or 4G LTE could still be giving you reliable service.
- 5G Service in a Large Buildings: Carrier-provided routers often cover small areas of about 1-2 small rooms within a home and although that works for some customers, others want a larger coverage area. Signal boosters are used across the US, Canada and Mexico to improve cell service for vehicles, small homes, large homes, and huge buildings with weak cell service. There is a signal booster to meet just about any application.
- Expanding the 5G Coverage Map: Carrier-provided routers are great for the urban and semi-urban areas that will have the best 5G cell service. On the other hand, a signal booster can be customized to access 5G cell signals further from the building, which allows you to connect to the 5G network further from the tower in suburban and rural areas.
5G Signal Booster: Force8
The SureCall Force8 5G signal booster expands the 5G coverage map for T-Mobile and Sprint. What’s more is Force8 also improves in-building cell service for every US cell carrier’s 3G and 4G LTE signals. Yes, that means Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular and all others. This is a HetNet and HetGen solution that boosts signals for all cell networks and cell generations for industrial applications with carrier approval. Learn more about the Force8 pricing and information.