Though Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile could alter the carriers’ 5G network launches in 2019, Sprint is apparently maintaining its own plan for rolling out 5G services until the merger is finalized. Today, Sprint announced that it will launch 5G using 2.5GHz spectrum in New York City; Phoenix, Arizona; and Kansas City, Kansas, claiming that these markets will be “the first to experience Sprint’s fifth-generation network” starting in the first half of 2019.
Sprint previously said that it would bring “5G-ready” network hardware to Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles by April 2018, followed by Atlanta, Houston, and Washington, D.C. later in the year. This hardware notably includes Massive MIMO radio antennas, which enable compatible devices to send and receive data on multiple radio channels at once, radically improving speeds. Some recent 4G/LTE devices support Massive MIMO, enabling users to achieve superior data rates and fewer dropped connections ahead of the 5G launch.
“Today we have a great LTE network,” said Sprint’s chief strategy officer, Kevin Crull, “and with Sprint 5G, we’ll deliver for our customers mobile data speeds that are up to 10 times faster, with significantly improved reliability and coverage.” The company reaffirmed its plan “to deploy thousands of Massive MIMO radios” across 2018 and 2019, “significantly increasing network capacity for millions of customers across the country.”
Sprint’s current Next-Gen Network plan involves upgrading cell sites to support triband 800MHz, 1.9GHz, and 2.5GHz service, enabling 5G phones to simultaneously connect with its 2.5GHz 5G network while falling back to 4G/LTE connections as necessary on the other bands. However, the plan could well change if T-Mobile merges its network with Sprint’s, as T-Mobile owns different radio frequencies and has announced plans to offer 5G nationwide on low-frequency 600MHz spectrum.