AT&T takes 5G nationwide, greasing the skids for a super-fast iPhone

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AT&T 5G expended by 40 markets on Thursday
AT&T 5G coverage is now available for a majority of Americans.
Photo: AT&T

AT&T’s 5G network expanded to cover 395 markets in the United States on Thursday. Which is coverage for 205 million current and potential customers. That puts the telecom close to T-Mobile in 5G coverage area, and well ahead of Verizon.

So at least some US carriers will be ready for the 5G iPhone if it debuts in a few months, as expected.

AT&T 5G coverage is all about frequencies

AT&T is using mid-band and low-band 5G, which has a range of about 2 miles. But it also has some mmWave 5G, which offers faster connections but a range of only about 1,000 feet.

“Our strategy of deploying 5G in both sub-6  (5G) and mmWave (5G+) spectrum bands will provide the best mix of speeds, latency and coverage that are needed to enable revolutionary new capabilities to fuel 5G experiences for consumers and businesses,” said Chris Sambar, EVP of Technology Operations, in a statement.

Don‘t be confused if your AT&T iPhone already claims to have “5GE.” That’s a misleading marketing term the telecom has been widely criticized for using.

Rival 5G rollouts

AT&T faces strong competition in the race to replace 4G. T-Mobile, which became a more serious rival after merging with Sprint, launched a nationwide 5G network in December 2019 using entirely low-band 5G.

Verizon’s network uses mmWave. As a result, it’s vastly faster than either competing telecom, but it’s coverage area is relatively tiny.

Preparing for a 5G iPhone

The first iPhone capable of connecting to the AT&T 5G network, and those of its rivals, is widely expected to launch in the autumn. It’ll supposedly come in four variations, though 5G might not be built into all of them.

A launch date for the iPhone 12 is a much-debated topic. It’s unlikely to be a traditional September debut. Rumors are a mix of October and November.

Whenever it reaches store shelves, it’s expected to be a big seller. Analysts say there are plenty of potential customers who’ve held off upgrading their current handset until they can get one with 5G.