February 6, 2018
Sprint plans to launch a 5G network by early 2019, joining its competitors in rolling out the new technology and spending $5 billion to $6 billion annually on its network. Verizon and AT&T plan to roll out their 5G networks later this year. Although today’s smartphones can already stream HD video with the current 4G networks, 5G networks will enable other devices and technologies, including autonomous vehicles. Sprint’s parent company, SoftBank Group, also has a significant investment in Uber Technologies.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Sprint, which projected it would spend $3.5 billion to $4 billion on its network last year, “said its 5G network would be superior because it relies on airwaves at the 2.5 GHz frequency, which covers greater distances than some rivals.”
Sprint said it will also be able to roll out the network more quickly than others due to its frequencies, but also admitted that it’s having difficulties getting zoning permits for the small cell towers required to increase network capacity, “part of the reason why its network hasn’t improved as quickly as executives promised several years ago.”
Despite the slower introduction than anticipated, Sprint “said its network had improved enough that it might consider raising prices.” Sprint reported that in Q4 2017 it added 265,000 monthly subscribers, “down from 405,000 a year ago.” With the new tax laws, it lowered its deferred tax liability more than $7 billion; “excluding that, its profit was $104 million, up from a $368 million loss in the year ago period.”
VentureBeat reports that, “AT&T has confirmed that it will follow Verizon’s 2010 playbook for rolling out next-generation wireless services in 2018, starting by selling portable hotspots while high-speed phones are being built.” Verizon, which committed to a roll-out of “fixed 5G’ in three to five cities, has also guaranteed that, “it would update its proprietary 5G hardware to ensure 5G standards compatibility.”
As a result of these disclosures, “we have a much better idea of what America’s 2018 5G roadmap will be, barring any unexpected government interruptions.” Users in the cities chosen by those carriers will be able to “buy a wireless device later this year with roughly the same speed as a wired broadband connection.”
Verizon’s fixed 5G devices will be “wall-powered and designed to be left in a home or small business,” whereas AT&T’s will be portable, battery-powered pucks.
Carriers are not starting with 5G-powered smartphones because the technology will not yet scale to be able to manufacture “massive quantities necessary to serve millions of customers.” Although 5G will usher in an age of “millions of low-powered, low-bandwidth Internet of Things (IoT) devices permanently connected to 5G networks,” carriers haven’t turned their attention to national infrastructure yet.
AT&T’s 5G network will first “leverage FirstNet infrastructure — a secure nationwide wireless network currently being built for first responders,” and Verizon is “working with individual cities to develop public-private 5G rollout plans to defray costs.”
During Super Bowl LII, Verizon used U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota for live tests of its 5G tech, including the transmission of live VR and 4K video content. “The tests were notably conducted with Samsung 5G hardware on live 5G networks during very active use of 4G networks already in the stadium,” according to VentureBeat. Verizon’s tests of the high bandwidth and low latency 5G are noteworthy due to the “reliance on new end-to-end 5G hardware and two separate carriers’ 5G networks, all of which worked in the tests.”