Major Carriers Rolling Out 5G Networks

The race among national cellular companies to offer fifth-generation wireless service entered its next phase on Oct. 1 when Verizon Communications activated its next-generation technology in four U.S. cities.

Verizon’s 5G wireless network went online in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento, California, on Oct. 1, while other national carriers plan on introducing their 5G services later this year or in 2019.

AT&T announced in September that it will unveil its 5G service in parts of Texas: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Waco. And it will arrive in Jacksonville, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; New Orleans; Atlanta; Charlotte; Indianapolis; Oklahoma City; and Raleigh, North Carolina, before the end of the year. Sprint’s 5G rollout will begin with Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

All of the 5G rollouts are in urban areas, but AT&T is the only carrier with plans to initially serve midsized cities such as Louisville and Waco in addition to larger metropolitan areas.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile announced plans to build out its 5G network in 30 cities this year, but has so far named only New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Las Vegas. While T-Mobile’s build-out is happening this year, the next next-generation network will not be available for customers until 2019.

Other carriers will attempt to bring 5G-like capabilities to consumers through “bridge plans” before their networks are in place. AT&T and Verizon say they intend to offer 5G hot spots, while Sprint is to go forward with an advanced network technology called Massive MIMO.

Future wide-scale rollouts of 5G networks could be challenging because the range of millimeter wave 5G is closer to Wi-Fi than to conventional LTE networks. The networks will require more base stations or “small cells” for installation in a variety of locations, including street lamps and businesses.

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