Why AT&T customers could have a first shot at a 5G iPhone

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AT&T logo
AT&T is way, way ahead of the competition in rolling out mobile 5G.
Photo: Luismt94/Wikipedia CC

Anyone eagerly awaiting a 5G iPhone probably should be an AT&T subscriber. This wireless service provider will have mobile 5G service in a dozen cities before any of its rivals have it in even one.

Still, rival Verizon hit a milestone today by making the world’s first 5G NR call from a smartphone-size device.

AT&T mobile 5G way, way ahead of the completion

AT&T already announced seven cities where it will begin offering the mobile version of this ultra-fast service before the end of this year, and today named five more. On top of that, it just revealed seven additional areas getting 5G service in 2019.

With today’s announcement, the carrier has promised to have the 4G replacement up and running in parts of Houston, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, San Antonio, Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, and Waco by years’ s end.

In 2019, AT&T mobile 5G will also be available in parts of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.

”We’re at the dawn of something new that will define the next decade and generation of connectivity,” said Andre Fuetsch, CTO for AT&T Communications, in a statement.

Where heck is Verizon 5G?

AT&T’s chief rival is Verizon, but that carrier is well behind in the race to 5G. It will have this service in four U.S. cities by the end of 2018, but this will be a fixed version only for homes and businesses. Verizon’s mobile 5G access won’t start rolling out until 2019.

This Qualcomm mobile test device successfully made an end-to-end connection with an Ericsson base station over Verizon’s 5G network.
This Qualcomm mobile test device successfully made an end-to-end connection with an Ericsson base station over Verizon’s 5G network.
Photo: Verizon Wireless

Still, this wireless provider is in there swinging. This morning, it completed the first call made with a smartphone-sized test device on a 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) network. The device was also able to access the Internet. This test was done in Minneapolis, MN.

“This latest demonstration is significant because it took place over commercial 5G NR network equipment to a test device in the form factor of the handheld devices our customers will eventually use on our 5G network,” said Bill Stone, VP of  Technology Development and Planning for Verizon, in a statement.

Sprint and T-Mobile are trying to merge, and are using 5G as a reason why the U.S. government should approve this process. The two say they’ll be able to deploy this new cellular technology more quickly working together. When their rollout will begin is not yet known, though.

Waiting for a 5G iPhone

There are currently no shipping smartphones capable of connecting to 5g networks. When AT&T’s mobile 5G service launches this fall, it will be accessible only through mobile hotspots specially designed for this super-fast data network. 

That said, a 5G iPhone is in development. Apple has been testing this technology since at least 2017. But when this high-speed will be released probably depends on the wireless carriers. There’s little point in introducing a 5G phone with no 5G network to connect it to.