AT&T 5G: When and Where You Can Get It

AT&T 5G rollout plans and how 5G Evolution is paving the way

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AT&T is one of many carriers in the process of releasing a 5G network in the US, and was the first to launch mobile 5G services in select cities on December 21, 2018. AT&T has confirmed over a dozen 5G cities and plans to announce more this year.

The 5G network from AT&T is mobile to begin with, meaning that once 5G devices are available sometime this year, customers can access the 5G network from anywhere they get AT&T service. It won't be until late 2019 that AT&T will offer a fixed wireless access (FWA) solution where you can get 5G internet at home.

The initial 5G mobile network from AT&T uses millimeter wave spectrum but low-band spectrum will eventually be used, too, depending on the demand of the coverage area.

AT&T will provide nationwide 5G coverage by early 2020, which the company expects to be in their lower band spectrum (sub-6 GHz).

With the help of Samsung's 5G network equipment, AT&T is using their "Innovation Zone" in Austin, Texas, to learn more about 5G's role in smart factories.

While the AT&T 5G mobile plan isn’t yet available for purchase by most of the public, their 5G Evolution service works in hundreds of markets. 5G Evolution not only allows ultrafast speeds but lays the groundwork for 5G rollouts.

AT&T 5G Cities

AT&T's 5G service is live in parts of 20 cities:

  • CA: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose
  • FL: Jacksonville, Orlando
  • GA: Atlanta
  • IN: Indianapolis
  • KY: Louisville
  • LA: New Orleans
  • NC: Charlotte, Raleigh
  • OK: Oklahoma City
  • TN: Nashville
  • TX: Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Waco

Business customers can also get 5G in parts of Las Vegas and New York City, via the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G on the AT&T Business Unlimited Preferred plan.

AT&T’s 5G network will be available in more cities throughout 2019, including Chicago IL and Minneapolis MN.

AT&T 5G Plan Details

The company has a mobile 5G plan available for select businesses and consumers only, via the NETGEAR Nighthawk® 5G Mobile Hotspot. The device connects to AT&T's network via a pre-installed SIM card. Service is free for at least the first 90 days.

In the spring of 2019, AT&T will open their 5G services to everyone else for $70 /month at a 15 GB /month data cap. The Nighthawk will run $499. There will not be an annual commitment.

According to USA TODAY, an AT&T spokesperson said that "5G brings capabilities that are going to cause us to think different about pricing," so these prices might not stick long term.

AT&T is branding their mmWave spectrum network as 5G+.

AT&T's 5G Phones

AT&T will release two 5G phones in 2019. One will be available in the second half of 2019 and the other, the Samsung S10 5G, is coming out this spring.

AT&T 5G Evolution Markets

5G Evolution is a term AT&T uses to describe their ultrafast wireless internet service. It’s available in only select locations but provides a taste of what full-blown 5G will be like, delivering theoretical speeds of up to 400 Mbps (though often around 40 Mbps in real-world situations).

AT&T has upgraded its cell towers to support 5G Evolution not only to enable faster speeds that users can take advantage of right now, but also to more easily upgrade them to 5G when ready — once 5G radios are installed, software can be used to push out new functionalities and upgrades.

These are just some of the 5G Evolution cities that AT&T supports:

  • Atlanta
  • Austin
  • Boston
  • Bridgeport
  • Buffalo
  • Chicago
  • Fresno
  • Greenville
  • Hartford
  • Houston
  • Indianapolis
  • Los Angeles
  • Louisville
  • Memphis
  • Nashville
  • New Orleans
  • Oklahoma City
  • Pittsburgh
  • San Antonio
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Tulsa
  • Sacramento

AT&T planned to end 2018 with 5G Evolution in over 400 markets, and will continue to deploy it in the first half of 2019 to reach 200 million people.

This year, the company is putting a "5G E" logo at the top of some Android and iOS devices to show that the device is connected to a 5G Evolution cell tower. However, while 5G Evolution is faster than LTE, it's important to know that 5G E refers not to LTE or to AT&T's coming mobile 5G service, but instead to 5G Evolution. The "E" will be dropped in the future when connected to a true 5G cell.

AT&T's 5G Fixed Wireless Access Service

AT&T currently offers fixed wireless internet, but not of the 5G variety. All of the cities mentioned above pertain to the mobile 5G service AT&T has already released or is about to release this year, not a FWA service that will beam internet to your home.

However, AT&T has been running 5G fixed wireless internet trials in places like South Bend IN, Kalamazoo MI, Austin TX, and Waco TX. The speeds seen in one of these 5G deployments were upwards of 1 Gbps, with less than 20 ms latency.

AT&T Wireless Broadband is the company's current newest AT&T Business offering that's set to provide speeds of up to 50 Mbps. This is what AT&T says will lay the groundwork for customers to upgrade to AT&T 5G when it becomes available.

Beginning in late 2019, AT&T will make its move to provide 5G fixed wireless access to areas that don't currently have broadband service, but no specific cities have been announced. However, they will kick it off by using LTE in Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum before migrating to 5G.

In early 2019, the company's CEO said that in a "three- to five-year time horizon, unequivocally, 5G will serve as a fixed broadband replacement product,” and that he's "very convicted that that will be the case. We are obviously on a standards-based path that is mobile first.”