Pop the champagne corks, because the next generation 5G mobile network is finally here! Well, kind of. It's in a few cities. And it only works if you have this one phone.
No, the floodgates haven't been magically opened for super-fast speeds on your mobile devices. While it seems to be moving at a snail's pace, dates have been set and the rollout is truly underway.
At long last, the 5G switch is being flipped and compatible smartphones are just about ready to go. Read on to find out the latest on 5G including what's already here, what's on the way and what's going to take longer than expected.
5G then and now
There were promises that 5G would be so fast that it would blow 4G LTE out of the water, with a projected average speed of about 1GBps. Not only that, but it's a network that'll be able to handle the continuing evolution of the Internet of Things and the seemingly endless potential of device connectivity. Your phone is only a small part of the potential. Think smart cities, homes and cars along with major advancements in virtual and augmented reality.
Work on the 5G network has actually been going on for more than a decade, but didn't start garnering real attention until the last five years or so. In 2013, Samsung announced it had created a 5G network. Verizon started testing 5G in 2016, as other companies quietly worked on building out the infrastructure for the new network.
Time went on and the initial buzz waned, then news about 5G really started picking up steam again in 2018. In October, Verizon announced that it mobile network would be launched in 30 U.S. cities before the end of 2019. The company didn't say which ones - at first.
Not to be one-upped, AT&T did more than set a date and in December flipped the switch on 5G in 12 cities:
- New Orleans
- Oklahoma City
- San Antonio
AT&T then announced another list of cities that would launch on 5G during 2019:
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- San Jose
Sprint is also working on its own plans, initially working to activate 5G this May in the following cities:
- Kansas City
Then Sprint plans to add these cities later in the year:
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- Washington, D.C.
Let's not forget about T-Mobile, which is also planning a 30-city launch at some point in 2019, possibly the second half of year, beginning with these cities:
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- New York City
That's great, but what's a 5G network if no devices can connect to it?
First of all, if you have a smartphone on the AT&T network you might already see 5G E in the top corner. This is not real 5G. All phones currently on the market only support 4G LTE, and their phones are no different. It's just their strange way to market what they're calling a faster version of 4G, even though some tests show their misleading 5G E is actually slower than Verizon and T-Mobile's 4G LTE. Another test says otherwise, that AT&T now has the fastest.
So let's move on to phones that actually has 5G radio capabilities built-in. Samsung unveiled its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S10 along with a 5G version during an event back in February. Its 5G phone will at first launch exclusively with Verizon and rumor has it it might be made available for pre-order in the U.S. in mid-April and released around mid-May.
LG also has a 5G phone on the way, the V50 ThinQ. It's supposed to launch exclusively with Sprint at first within the next few months.
Verizon's 5G is online and they have a phone to prove it
Now we'll come back around to Verizon. A few days ago, it launched its 5G service early in Chicago and Minneapolis. But that wasn't the company's only announcement.
Flipping the switch in those two cities was one thing, but the big news was that Verizon had a phone that works on the 5G network. But it's not a new phone. It's the existing Moto z3 that can now access the 5G network - you'll just have to buy the just-released $200 Moto Mod attachment to add the capability. And pay an extra $10 a month for 5G service.
Now Verizon has seemingly taken the lead in the race to 5G. Even though coverage is sparse, it's is actually demonstrating that 5G is real and it's here.
The next steps in the 5G rollout
As you read through this report, you might have noticed there was no mention of Apple and a 5G-capable iPhone. That was no accident. Apple hasn't exactly been quick to adopt new tech or standards over the past few years and it doesn't seem to be treating 5G any differently. Don't expect to see an iPhone that can access the new network until at the earliest, 2020.
It might even be worse than that. One analyst told 9to5Mac that legal disputes over 5G modems might delay the release even further. He believes a 5G iPhone might not see the light of day until 2021.
In the grand scheme of things, however, the big carriers will continue to debut 5G service in different cities throughout the year. The problem is, coverage will initially be patchy and there will only be a few phones that'll even be able to use it by the end of year.
Yes, we'll eventually get more of a nationwide rollout of 5G, but you won't start seeing mass coverage until 2020 at the earliest. The 5G network might be incredibly fast, but the rollout certainly isn't.
Dozens of security flaws found in LTE can put your cellphone at risk
Although 5G is already making it's debut, most of us will still be on the 4G LTE network for the foreseeable future. And it has its problems.