2019 was a good year for 5G, the next big advancement in mobility. Carriers successfully launched 5G networks a year ahead of the original schedule, with a number of compatible devices becoming available for purchase.
The Race Is Heating Up
5G promises to significantly boost the speed, coverage, and responsiveness of wireless networks. In theory, it can run 10 to 100 times faster than a typical cellular connection today, making it the most significant advance in mobile network technology since the introduction of 4G a decade ago. Even though most of those promises remain unfulfilled for now, all four major U.S. carriers are gradually starting to roll out 5G across the country.
In December 2019, T-Mobile launched its new nationwide 5G mobile network that provides coverage to 200 million Americans. “T-Mobile’s 5G network covers 200 million people and more than 5,000 towns. That’s over 20,000% more towns than Verizon and AT&T, who won’t even say how many people they currently cover, because the real number has got to be so embarrassing,” according to a statement. The company has also published an interactive, zoomable 5G map so customers can see exactly where they get 5G coverage, down to the exact neighborhood.
Verizon has taken a different path when it comes to offering impeccable speeds with low latency. The company is initially deploying its 5G network on the millimeter wave spectrum (mmWave). While mmWave will undoubtedly offer the fastest 5G experience, it’s not great at passing through obstacles such as walls. This means that indoor connectivity can be really slow.
In the first half of December 2019, AT&T launched 5G coverage in five cities: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rochester, and San Diego. The company announced that by February 2020, 5G will be available in ten more cities: Birmingham, Boston, Bridgeport, Buffalo, Las Vegas, Louisville, Milwaukee, New York, San Francisco, and San Jose.
The Key to Unlocking 5G’s Full Potential
In October, Qualcomm announced that the Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System had been selected by more than 30 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) around the world for commercial 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) customer-premises equipment (CPE) device launches starting in 2020.
The problem is that Qualcomm’s current 5G modem (X50) runs on 5G networks only, thus forcing handset makers to equip phones with a separate chip that can connect to older networks. Two modems mean a more expensive and battery-hogging phone. This is one of the reasons why 5G phones cost so much more than their 4G cousins.
Superfast 5G Devices Available Right Now
The OnePlus 7 Pro has a 5G variant on Sprint that costs $840. Although it’s more expensive than the original model, OnePlus 7 Pro 5G is still cheaper than the 5G phones from LG and Samsung, which break the $1,000 budget.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is similar to the original Galaxy S10 except it has 5G connectivity. The device is available for purchase from Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, as well as AT&T for businesses. The pricey Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G is one of the most popular 5G phones. It’s available in the U.S. from Verizon for $1,300.
The LG V50 ThinQ 5G is available to Sprint users for $1,152 and to Verizon customers for $1,000. The phone features a 6.4-inch OLED display, three rear cameras, the Snapdragon 855 chipset, and two front-facing cameras.
The Mate 20 X 5G was supposed to launch in the UK in June for £999, but UK carriers have dropped plans to sell the device. It is not expected to be available in the US.
Instead of a phone, HTC launched a 5G hotspot. Available now on Sprint for $600, the hub connects up to 20 people simultaneously.
At about $827, the Galaxy A90 5G is one of the cheapest 5G phones. The device was launched in Korea in September and in Europe in October. Samsung has yet to announce whether the phone will be shipped to the US market.
Axon 10 Pro 5G is ZTE’s first 5G handset and is available in China and Europe. The device is already being sold in Germany for $549.
Although Apple seems to be in no rush to launch a 5G iPhone, analysts predict the company will unveil three 5G phones this year. Apple isn’t the usual early bird when it comes to mobile trends; the company prefers to perfect any new technology before committing to it.
As new networks will continue to light up across the world and devices will become more widely available, there’s no doubt that 5G will dramatically expand throughout 2020.