AT&T Says Its 5G Network Will Reach Nationwide This Summer
In an announcement this past week, AT&T’s John Stephens, the company’s senior executive vice president and chief financial officer, stated AT&T will have its newest 5G signal up and running by the end of the summer this year. The comments were made to shareholders during a conference call. Currently AT&T claims 160 million customers in 327 markets are covered with the wireless carrier’s 5G data speeds and connectivity.
As always, the devil is in the details. AT&T is operating all three classes of 5G, from the slowest low-band which is basically 4G LTE with a little pep in its step which AT&T calls 5Ge, to the more far reaching and significant improvement mid-band capable of about 100-400 Mbit/s down per second and is called 5G, and the true 5G that we are all dazzled with called 5G+, millimeter wave technology which will require significant infrastructure by hanging antennas on builds and poles all across our cities relatively close to each other, but the speeds are blazing fast and you can expect 1-2 Gbit/s down, or download a 4k HD movie in about a minute or two.
The 5G AT&T is touting covering all of America is the low-band improved and rebranded 4G LTE, now called 5Ge by AT&T. In fact, you may already be on it, but didn’t notice much of a difference in speeds because the improvement is slight and not at all consistent according to Root Metrics data, an independent organization that measures all wireless carrier signals. 4G TLE and the 5Ge are technically different. Side note, due to public backlash and pressure accusing AT&T of misleading customers about 5Ge, AT&T announced it will drop using the 5Ge name.
Also, AT&T’s wholly owned MVO carrier Cricket, will not be accessing any 5G speeds, not even the low-band slow band 5Ge, again, which is really just 4G LTE improved, currently Cricket customers use AT&T’s standard 3G+ and 4G network. As is already the case, Cricket users and all other MVO operators using AT&T use slower speeds and can only access the faster speeds when AT&T’s network has extra capacity because its own customers are not gobbling up data. In other words AT&T customers are prioritized over Cricket and other MVO users.
But all is not lost, AT&T has been aggressively building its mid-band 5G, even during the pandemic. However, the number of customers who can currently access the mid-band 5G network is fairly limited. Even in the cities AT&T says it is up and running, it’s not the whole city, just certain parts.
Users must also have a 5G capable phone in order to get the 5G signal. And in some cases, AT&T and other carriers charge a special fee to access the 5G network.
The carriers true 5G we were all promised is only up and running in a few cities, and even then, only in a small localized area covering about one square mile. This millimeter wave technology provides the fastest 5G speeds possible, but requires extensive towers and antennas fairly close together, about every 1000 feet. That’s because the super fast signal is fairly weak, doesn’t travel far, and can’t go thru even simple obstacles like glass, trees or humans very easy. No word on when this type of 5G will be widespread and accessible.
AT&T is the only carrier deploying all three types of 5G. The low-band version will become the carriers backbone for redundancy and for more rural areas, the mid-band will be for the lower-density suburbs and the millimeter wave technology will be for dense urban areas. This is expected to give AT&T the advantage in 5G coverage compared to other carriers. While T-Mobile is deploying a slower version of the mid-band 5G network as its fastest speed because it is cheaper, and that has allowed the nations smallest carrier to claim to be the first nationwide 5G carrier, it will limit the carriers customers from truly fast 5G speeds. Verizon has been installing millimeter wave only so far, which means it is far from providing widespread coverage.
According to Shelly Fazid, a wireless data analyst, AT&T’s blended approach will ultimately get more people onto faster speeds, but it will take a while as the carrier builds out both the mid-band and millimeter wave infrastructure.