Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington DC will experience 5G this year.
As with every new generation of wireless technology, 5G promises more of everything than the last generation offered. It will be faster, more responsive (lower latency), and will allow many more devices to connect at once. But in order to realize 5G, the major networks need to upgrade their hardware and roll out the service. Sprint just announced it is set to do that in six cities starting in April.
Sprint will roll out its 5G mobile network in the first half of 2019, but select cities will get to experience 5G this year. The key to getting a 5G network working is the use of Massive MIMO radios, which Sprint is going to install in Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles first beginning in April. Later this year, Atlanta, Houston, and Washington DC will also get the new radios.
5G promises up to 10-times the capacity of current 4G LTE networks, but in order to realize that we’re going to need 5G-compatible devices. The 5G radio system isn’t compatible with 4G, so existing mobile devices won’t be able to take advantage of it. However, 5G phones are coming in 2019, and Sprint says anyone using a 2.5GHz (band 41) device on its network can take advantage of the extra speed and capacity. So while we’ll have to wait for new mobile devices to arrive, modems should appear much more quickly such as Qualcomm’s recently announced X50.
The Massive MIMO radios use 128 antennas and were developed in conjunction with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung. The good news is, the radios offer a split service allowing support for both 4G LTE and 5G. They are also software-upgradeable to 5G meaning no extra tower climbs are necessary.
Meanwhile, AT&T plans to launch a 5G service in 12 cities before the end of the year, with the first three cities announced as Dallas, Atlanta, and Waco, Texas. A document discovered last month also proposes a federally-owned nationwide 5G network to counter national security threats may also be on the cards.