Having missed its previously suggested November target for launching the first mobile 5G network, AT&T today offered updates on its 5G hardware and device plans. Following a similar announcement with Verizon, Samsung will also offer a 5G smartphone for AT&T during the first half of 2019, and AT&T’s mobile 5G network is now expected to start service “before the end of 2018.”
Like the Verizon-Samsung announcement, AT&T’s description of the Samsung phone is light on specifics — but likely happening now because of a Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit that will take place later today in Maui. Samsung will be showing a “proof of concept” 5G smartphone equipped with Qualcomm-developed 5G components, parts that will likely make their way into multiple smartphones for both AT&T and Verizon next year.
As shown in the image above, Samsung used a prototype 5G smartphone this past weekend to initiate 5G service in its home country of South Korea. The prototype appeared to have larger top and bottom bezels than recent Galaxy S-series smartphones, but it’s unclear whether this is the same phone that will be shown today in Maui or offered to customers by either U.S. carrier.
There’s some ambiguity as to which Samsung device AT&T will be offering, and when. While an AT&T-written press release summary says the company “will grow our mobile 5G device lineup in the spring of 2019 with the launch of the first Samsung mobile 5G smartphone,” the text of the release is less specific, referring to “a 5G smartphone” and a “first half of 2019” release date.
Only one other device has been announced for AT&T’s network: a fairly large Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot, which is intended for sale this month. AT&T described it as “the world’s first mmWave mobile 5G device,” referencing its ability to send and receive signals over a high-bandwidth millimeter wave radio network — one of several types of radio signals that will be used for 5G service. Pricing and release information have not yet been announced for the hotspot, which uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 modem.
AT&T also confirmed today that it has already installed 5G equipment in “areas” of the 12 markets where it plans to make 5G available this year, including Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco. It also reaffirmed its intent to expand 5G service to “parts” of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose in the first half of 2019.