AT&T's 5G mobile network to go live

21 December 2018 | James Pearce

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AT&T’s 5G mobile network is set to go live, making it the second US operator to launch the next generation mobile technology, and the first to offer mobile services.

Although mobile devices supporting 5G aren’t due to launch until next year, AT&T will offer 5G services via a mobile hotspot device across 12 US cities.

AT&T said it would initially offer the service to businesses in areas where it is launching 5G, inviting them to try out the new technology, before rolling out a wider commercial offering in Spring.

“This is the first taste of the mobile 5G era,” said Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs and chief technology officer. “Being first, you can expect us to evolve very quickly. It’s early on the 5G journey and we’re ready to learn fast and continually iterate in the months ahead.”

AT&T’s standards-based mobile 5G network is live today in parts of 12 cities: Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio and Waco, Texas.

In the first half of 2019, it will add mobile 5G deployments in parts of seven additional cities: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, California.

AT&T is calling it a 5G+ network, which leverages mmWave spectrum to offer faster mobile services than existing LTE networks. 5G+ will start out in dense urban areas.

The hotspot hardware is a "Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot," costing $499, though AT&T said it will not charge businesses selected during the initial rollout.

It follows Verizon’s October launch of its 5G Home service in parts of four cities: Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento. The network is built on Verizon's own 5G TF standard, with the US opting against using 3GPP-compliant 5G NR standards that have yet to be finalised.

Unlike Verizon’s service, which is fixed wireless access, AT&T is offering a mobile service, though due to the lack of 5G mobile devices, this still must be offered through a hotspot.