Sprint today launches its 5G network in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Kansas City and becomes the third largest US operator to start the next era of mobile data. "This will probably be the largest initial 5G launch in terms of coverage and footprint," Sprint CTO John Saw told reporters who met in Dallas this morning. In this city, Sprint & # 39; s 5G launch footprint covers 575 square miles and approximately 1.6 million people. "This is just the beginning," Saw said. Sprint offers a coverage map of where customers can expect 5G signals at launch, something that competitors have not yet done.
But for Sprint, 5G is about much more than just coverage: it's about reliability. Rivals Verizon and AT & T have focused their launch of 5G efforts on millimeter wave technology, delivering next-level data rates that can exceed more than 1 Gbps, but with the interaction of extreme spotty coverage.
In the case of Verizon, coverage is strong when you are close to one of the 5G nodes, but fall away quickly while you leave and disappear completely once the node has disappeared from view. Inside coverage is also essentially non-existent, with Verizon falling back to LTE speeds, because windows and walls are enough to beat millimeter waves. Sprint executives today described Verizon's current setup as a "hotspot 5G network," which is a pretty brutal burn.
Sprint, on the other hand, uses the so-called "split mode" to have devices combine 5G NR and LTE Advanced for faster download speeds and, more importantly, somewhat consistent 5G coverage. Sprint does not rely on the same high-frequency millimeter wave technology as Verizon and AT&T at this time. Instead, the 5G builds on top of its 2.5 GHz medium broadband spectrum. According to Saw, Sprint's antennas on 5G markets are distributed with dedicated LTE and 5G sources. "We do not share spectrum. We do not steal bandwidth from LTE users and you see no delay in 5G just because LTE customers use a lot of data." Saw insists that this is something that is not possible with millimeter wave alone. "I think we are the only operator in the US able to launch our 5G network with exactly the same coverage as LTE, right on top of each other."
But how fast is it? Sprint's promise is up to five times faster than that of LTE. "We are trying to set the right expectations," Saw said. "You should see more than 100 Mbps when you drive around." Sprint drove media around for a short two-mile bus ride to demonstrate mobile speeds. The new LG V50 did indeed stay above that 100 Mbps point during the test, and the Sprint-5G network never fell off while driving. Peak speeds reached between 500 Mbps and 600 Mbps when we stopped and were stationary. But Sprint is certainly conservative in his guidance and reiterates that this is the first day and that improvements will come early and often.
Yet some people will inevitably fall behind those peak speeds. "That is hardly better than what I get now," is an easy criticism, but you should also think of real-world speeds versus advertised or theoretical performance. Sprint says that his LTE customers usually reach around 30 Mbps.
Sprint claims it will include approximately 11.5 million people once it has completed the rollout of the first 5G launch in these cities:
- Atlanta (now available) 150 square miles, around 565,000 people
- Chicago (coming soon)
- Dallas-Fort Worth (now available) 575 square miles, around 1.6 million people
- Houston (now available) 165 square miles, around 800,000 people
- Kansas city (now available) 225 square miles, around 625,000 people
- Los Angeles (coming soon)
- New York City (coming soon)
- Phoenix (coming soon)
The first two are 5G-compatible courier devices the LG V50 and the HTC 5G Hub, both of which go on sale on May 31. The V50 has a 6.4-inch OLED screen and similar specifications to the G8, but the only thing you really need to know is that it also has a 5G logo on the back that lights up yellow, which is suitable for the first time resembles wave 5G phone. The 5G Hub is a strange little device that mainly serves as a wifi and ethernet hotspot. It supports a maximum of 20 simultaneous device connections. But the Hub also runs Android 9 Pie on its 5-inch 720p screen, has Google Assistant built in, and according to Sprint offers a wealth of options for streaming 4K content and games to your TV screen. Sprint says the Galaxy S10 5G will follow these devices sometime in the summer as soon as Verizon exclusivity presents itself.
When Saw spoke to journalists, he compared the ideal 5G network structure with a wedding cake. High frequency millimeter wave delivers the amazing peak speeds I saw with Verizon in Chicago. Mid-band 2.5 GHz spectrum makes 5 G coverage more reliable and stable. And low-band "sub-6" spectrum will be crucial to ensure that 5G can reach locations and challenging coverage spots strongly indoors. As you would expect, he proposed the T-Mobile merger as essential because that company has a large number of low-band spectrum that would complement Sprint's own business.
"The US has the opportunity to win the race to 5G, and the merger between Sprint and T-Mobile could lead America," said Sprint CEO Michel Combes on Thursday. "Only the new T-Mobile would have the network and spectrum capacity needed to provide the right 5G experience for customers."
I'm in Dallas and will give the first two 5G products from Sprint a thorough test drive in the coming days. So if you have any questions, shoot away in the comments.