If you were wondering how the fourth-largest U.S. cellular carrier plans to bring 5G to its customers, Sprint today has a partial answer to that question: It just announced that it’s working with HTC and Qualcomm on a 5G hotspot, though it’s not ready to share a name, specifications, or exact release timing quite yet.
Describing the device as a “powerful 5G mobile smart hub,” Sprint says that it will deliver “multimedia and connected data capabilities in a compact and portable design,” including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 modem for 5G, plus LTE capabilities. While that language could include something more sophisticated than current wireless hotspots, which tend to include basic color screens to assist with networking setups and connection status, the description sounds largely as if the device will serve 4G and 5G data to other devices.
Sprint previously said that it is working with LG on a “beautifully designed advanced 5G smartphone” for debut next year. Unlike competitors, Sprint plans to leverage 2.5GHz wireless spectrum for 5G, similar to spectrum currently in use for 4G networks, likely reducing data speeds while improving signal range and penetration.
“We’re excited to continue building our 5G device portfolio and announce another way our customers can be among the first to experience Sprint 5G next year,” said Sprint CTO Dr. John Saw. “This innovative product will allow customers on the go, at work or at home to enjoy Sprint 5G on multiple devices with incredibly fast connectivity for content sharing, mobile gaming, entertainment and so much more.”
Sprint has promised to launch its mobile 5G network in nine U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. The company is in the middle of merging with third-place U.S. carrier T-Mobile, but the recently delayed regulatory vetting process leaves somewhat unclear how the companies would proceed separately with 5G launches in the absence of government approval.
Today, Sprint said that HTC’s “5G mobile smart hub” will be released in “the first half of 2019.” AT&T previously announced that its first 5G device, Netgear’s Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot, will ship sometime this year, also with Qualcomm’s X50 modem inside.