Keep your promises

It's October, and while that means pumpkins and candy and jump scares, it also means time is running out on AT&T's promise to bring 5G speeds to 12 markets by the end of the year! AT&T's 5G network may not be first 5G network in the US, but it will be the first one that is certified to the 3GPP standard for 5G, meaning it'll be the first "real" 5G network in the nation if it can get rolled out in time!

And it's getting pretty close.

October 26, 2018 — AT&T completes first 5G "browsing session" and announces its first 5G mobile hotspot

Netgear Nighthawk 5G

AT&T still has a ways to go to get its 5G network up and available to all, but the race to get it rolled out to its initial 12 markets is coming along smoothly, with another important milestone being passed again last night in Waco, Texas: the first 5G browsing session on a commercial 5G hotspot from Netgear, which will be available exclusively on AT&T.

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AT&T is a Texas-based company, and it has completed several of its initial 5G tests in Waco, Texas, home of the Baylor Bears, Fixer Upper's Magnolia Silos, and Android Central's own Ara Wagoner (that's me). Last night, Waco was the site for AT&T's first browsing session from a 5G hotspot: the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot. This little black box is going to be the first — and until compatible 5G phones are available, the only — device that AT&T customers in AT&T's early markets will be able to get 5G data from.

The Nighthawk 5G is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem, a modem that was announced last year and was one of the first commercially available that supported the 3GPP 5G NR standard. We don't know how much about the Netgear Nighthawk 5G — like when it will be available, what the hotspot will cost, or what the data plan to power it will cost — but AT&T says that more details will be released later this year.

This test is another big step towards the 5G finish line for AT&T, and while 5G hotspots aren't something that many of us will be racing out to buy, this hotspot will be a tantalizing prospect for frequent travelers and businesses on the go, such as the many, many food trucks that call Waco home.

October 25, 2018 — AT&T tells investors it's rolling 5G out to 12 cities "within the next few weeks"

ATT 5G roadmap

AT&T has been promising the beginning of 5G coverage by the end of the year — real 5G, not its '5G Evolution' branding confusion it gave users while the 5G spec was still being finalized — and December is just around the corner — I can hear the Christmas music already — and on its Q3 earnings call, the Texas-based carrier told investors its intending to keep to its word, rolling out 5G in parts of its 12 initial markets "within the next few weeks".

"Few" is intentionally vague, but considering the end of the year traditionally includes the biggest travel seasons and employees scrambling to use up all their vacation days, it's reasonable to conclude that we'll see the roll out before the end of the month, maybe even before the travel mess that is Thanksgiving.

Let's go 5G

The slides shared during the call say that 5G network — based on and certified by the 3GPP standard for 5G — will be introduced in "parts of 12 cities" before the end of the year, and as a Texan, several of the initial markets excite me:

  • Dallas, TX (AT&T's HQ)
  • Houston, TX
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Waco, TX
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Louisville, KY
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Jacksonville, FL

The slides also state there is an additional 7 markets that will see 5G in early 2019:

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Fransisco, CA,
  • San Jose, CA
  • Orlando, FL
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Nashville, TN

Even with a real 5G rollout, you'll still need a 5G-compatible phone to see the new speeds, and we won't see many of those until 2019. Until then, AT&T can keep racing to cover the network its users will be buying 5G phones for next year, but the rollout won't mean much to the phone you have right now.

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