AT&T has promised to launch its mobile 5G network with mobile hotspot “pucks” in November, and now we know exactly what device it will be selling: Netgear’s Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot. But it’s not exactly what people expected when the company used the word “puck.”
The good news: The Nighthawk Mobile Hotspot is a real thing, and it was successfully tested by AT&T on one of the Ericsson-built 5G millimeter wave small cell towers AT&T’s been building out. As expected, it’s using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 modem and is fully standards-compliant — not running off pre-standards 5G, like Verizon’s current network. That means it should be able to keep on working with future 5G towers, as well.
The bad news: It’s pretty big for a hotspot. There’s a color screen surrounded by both a black bezel and a substantial plastic frame that doesn’t look particularly thin. So while you’ll be getting “mobile 5G” and the ability to share a high-speed data connection with multiple devices, it looks to be closer to a “small plate” than a “puck” in size. This is the latest sign that manufacturers are still struggling to shrink 5G devices to 4G device sizes, though recent antenna improvements will likely help 2019 devices do better.
AT&T has not announced pricing or a specific release date for the Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot, but based on the company’s most recent timeline, you can expect it to be in stores sometime in November. Twelve cities are scheduled to get AT&T’s mobile 5G service in 2018, with an additional seven following in early 2019.