Sprint launches 5G mobile in four US cities, first expansions coming within weeks
Sprint on Thursday launched 5G mobile data in four U.S. urban areas, namely Atlanta, Houston, Kansas City, and Dallas-Fort Worth.
Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. are set to switch on "in the coming weeks," the carrier said. That will still leaving it offering 5G to no more than 11.5 million people.
As with 5G deployments by other U.S. carriers, even cities that do have access won't immediately get 4G-level coverage. While Atlanta for example will have 150 square miles of 5G extending from downtown to Dunwoody, only 565,000 people live in planned service areas — a fraction of the over 5.8 million in the broader Atlanta metro area.
To provide the new service Sprint is using "5G Massive MIMO" radios by Ericsson, installed on existing 4G cell sites.
"With Massive MIMO and our mid-band spectrum, Sprint customers will have a great experience that isn't limited to small pockets of millimeter wave 5G coverage," wrote Sprint CTO John Saw in an apparent dig at rivals. mmWave is the the fastest variant of 5G but inherently short-range, which will likely keep it out of rural areas where wireless internet is even more useful.
Apple isn't expected to build 5G Qualcomm modems into iPhones until 2020. That will leave 2019 iPhones lagging behind devices from Samsung and others, but 5G may actually be more practical by the time Apple catches up.
Sprint's first compatible devices include the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, the LG V50 ThinQ,and the HTC 5G Hub. The Hub should work with existing iPhones and iPads, generating a Wi-Fi hotspot.