AT&T adds Chicago and Minneapolis to 5G rollout

In the midst of a lawsuit filed by rival carrier Sprint over whether AT&T’s 5G is really 5G, the latter has added two more cities to its 2019 rollout plan.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

AT&T has added Chicago and Minneapolis to its 2019 roadmap of 5G network services, which will be deployed over the next few months.

The two newly announced cities join Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Nashville, which are also due to be switched on in the first half of 2019.

AT&T announced its 5G network going live in mid-December in parts of Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Waco, Atlanta, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and Raleigh.

With 5G smartphones not yet available, AT&T is instead providing a Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot that uses the carrier's advanced LTE and millimetre-wave (mmWave)-based 5G mobile network. Existing smartphones will be able to connect to the Netgear hotspot.

"It's been about 50 days since we've introduced our mobile 5G+ mmWave network and a 5G capable mobile hotspot to customers. As the 5G leader in the US, we are pushing the industry and driving network and device performance improvements with our suppliers quickly," AT&T said on Tuesday.

"Due to a number of incremental improvements on both the network and device side, some of our early customers using 5G delivered over millimetre-wave spectrum, which we call 5G+, have experienced speeds in the range of 200-300 megabits per second, and even as high as 400 megabits per second."

The carrier said it has also recently demonstrated speeds of more than 1.5Gbps during field trials.

"We're on track and expect to have a nationwide 5G network using sub-6GHz spectrum by early 2020," it said.

Read more: AT&T 5G: Behind the scenes in Texas as the new mobile network goes live

One of its first 5G customers is motion picture, TV, and digital media production company Deep South Studios in New Orleans, which said it is using the connectivity to transfer large amounts of high-resolution graphics and video effects.

"We jumped at the chance to work with AT&T as an early adopter of 5G," Deep South Studios EVP Mick Flannigan said.

"A video production studio can really stand out because of its technology. And if you look at the capabilities of 5G, it feels limitless."

AT&T's announcement comes on the heels of Sprint revealing over the weekend that it has filed a lawsuit against AT&T over its "5G E" advertising, calling it false and misleading by deceiving customers to believe that its 4G LTE Advanced network is actually 5G.

The complaint claims that AT&T is making itself seem more technologically advanced than its competitors, which is causing "irreparable harm" to Sprint.

"AT&T has employed numerous deceptive tactics to mislead consumers into believing that it currently offers a coveted and highly anticipated fifth-generation wireless network, known as 5G," the complaint, filed in the United States District Court Southern District of New York, said.

"What AT&T touts as 5G, however, is nothing more than an enhanced fourth-generation Long-Term Evolution wireless service, known as 4G LTE Advanced, which is offered by all other major wireless carriers ... nor does AT&T sell a single 5G-enabled mobile phone or tablet."

Sprint said it is poised to launch the first actual 5G network in the US, and that AT&T's advertising is harming customers by encouraging them to switch carriers.

Read also: Did AT&T trick your business into paying for fake 5G? Sprint lawsuit says yes (TechRepublic)

It will also dampen consumer enthusiasm for 5G, Sprint argued, because they won't see any difference between LTE and 5G E. It added that this will diminish the value of its own 5G rollout and result in increased revenue for AT&T while causing Sprint "significant lost sales".

"AT&T's deception guts Sprint's opportunity to reap the full commercial benefits of Sprint's 5G network launch that it has been developing for years at enormous expense," the complaint said.

Sprint is seeking a permanent injunction against AT&T preventing them from using the term 5G E, as well as damages for "disgorgement of profits and costs for corrective advertisement".

Sprint -- which is facing opposition over its proposed merger with T-Mobile -- this month said it had doubled its quarterly network investment to $1.4 billion to prepare for 5G, which will launch across the initial 5G markets of downtown Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington DC in the coming months.

T-Mobile in January had mocked AT&T's 5G E branding, with similar sentiments also being shared by the chief technology officer of the fourth mobile carrier in the US, Verizon.

"The potential for 5G is awesome, but the potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise is a temptation that the wireless industry must resist," Verizon CTO Kyle Malady said at the time.

"If network providers, equipment manufacturers, handset makers, app developers, and others in the wireless ecosystem engage in behavior designed to purposefully confuse consumers, public officials and the investment community about what 5G really is, we risk alienating the very people we want most to join in developing and harnessing this exciting new technology."

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