Starting Tuesday, what AT&T is describing as “select businesses and consumers” in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco will receive a free Netgear Nighthawk mobile hotspot that will let them access AT&T’s seminal 5G network infrastructure.
Starting in the spring, AT&T said, a broader swath of customers will be able to buy the Nighthawk for $499 and pay another $70 a month for 5G service capped at 15 gigabytes of data usage.
AT&T said it is using the high-frequency “millimeter wave” spectrum in what it is branding as its “5G+” service. AT&T pegs peak theoretical speeds for the service at around 1.2 Gbps. Demoing the technology earlier this month at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Technology Summit in Maui, however, 5G+ topped out at only around 140 Mbps.
This is a sizable improvement over 4G LTE speeds—around three times faster—but it’s not by any means a game-changer in terms of the quest to turn 5G into a replacement for fixed wireless.
AT&T also plans to expand its 5G+ offering to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. Verizon also conducted a limited launch of a proprietary network technology it’s calling 5G back in October. T-Mobile plans to launch a 5G network in 30 cities next year.
Notably, Samsung said it will debut the first 5G Galaxy smart phone in the first half of 2019.
“This is the first taste of the mobile 5G era," said Andre Fuetsch, president of 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."