AT&T is finally opening its 5G network up to consumers. Next month, the carrier will begin selling the Galaxy S10 Plus 5G for $1,300, and customers on select unlimited plans will be able to connect it to AT&T’s burgeoning 5G network.
Initially, 5G for consumers will be offered in five cities: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rochester, and San Diego. An additional 10 cities, including New York, Boston, and San Francisco, are listed as coming “soon after,” and AT&T intends to have nationwide coverage within the first half of 2020.
At launch the network will not offer the fastest type of 5G connections, millimeter wave (mmWave), which use faster airwaves to deliver much faster data speeds. Instead, AT&T will only offer “low-band” 5G, which essentially uses newer technology to bundle together LTE-like spectrum into a much faster connection. (For those of you who care about airwave specifics, AT&T will be using a portion of its 850 Mhz spectrum.)
AT&T says that 5G speeds are “expected to be comparable” to LTE-Advanced speeds at launch — LTE-Advanced being a speedier deployment of 4G that most carriers are already using. Speeds will be “rapidly evolving from there,” according to a spokesperson.
Customers will need to subscribe to either AT&T’s Unlimited Extra or Unlimited Elite plans ($75 or $85 per month for a single line) in order to get 5G. AT&T says it will be offered at no additional charge. 5G data will count toward the unlimited plans’ throttling caps (50GB and 100GB of total data usage) the same way all other data does.
This launch makes AT&T the fourth of the major carriers to begin offering 5G to consumers. Verizon launched in a limited capacity in April and has since expanded to 18 cities. T-Mobile has launched mmWave in a few cities, with nationwide low-band coverage promised to come next month. And Sprint has been expanding cities and devices throughout the year as well.
A very fun thing about AT&T’s 5G launch is that the carrier somehow has three different brands for 5G. There is:
- 5GE — fake 5G, actually just upgraded LTE
- 5G — actual 5G, but without mmWave
- 5G+ — mmWave 5G
AT&T started rolling out mmWave 5G (what it calls 5G+) at the very end of 2018, launching a hotspot that was only available to select business customers and that only supported mmWave 5G. The carrier has continued to expand where mmWave 5G is available, and it’s also launched the mmWave-compatible Galaxy S10 5G (the non-Plus model) for businesses and developers. Today’s announcement marks the start of regular 5G being available on AT&T, and of any type of 5G being available to any AT&T customer who wants to pay for it.
AT&T’s mmWave network is available in “parts of” 21 cities, and the carrier has plans to expand to 30 cities in “early 2020.” It will open up to consumers at “a later date.” It’s important to note though, it will not be accessible to Galaxy S10 Plus 5G users, because the phone does not include support for mmWave.
Preorders for AT&T’s Galaxy S10 Plus 5G will begin on Monday, November 25th. AT&T says it will have more information then on when the device will actually ship (and when its 5G network will actually be available). The carrier expects it to launch in the “first half of December.”
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