The AT&T 5G network was turned on for developers and business users earlier in the year, but it hadn’t been made available to the public – until now – with AT&T saying it will roll out its 5G product to consumers in December.
However, users shouldn’t expect super-fast speeds or nationwide coverage at launch, because the company is doing everything it can to lessen expectations.
From Monday, AT&T will begin taking pre-orders for 5G phones, starting with Samsung's Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, the first phone capable of tapping into AT&T's low-band 5G. With Kevin Petersen, senior vice president of AT&T Mobility, telling CNET that the phone will ship in the "first half of December”.
However, the phone won’t be running on the best 5G offering on the market. It will only work on AT&T's low-band 5G, and it won’t be able to use the millimeter-wave network AT&T turned on in parts of 21 cities earlier this year. Devices that are able to tap into the super-fast millimeter-wave network won’t be available until next year.
If you want to access AT&T’s 5G, you’ll need to upgrade to the company’s most expensive plans. Unlimited Extra costs $75 (£58) per month and Unlimited Elite is at $85 (£66).
It’s something that will evolve
AT&T’s initial 5G consumer launch appears to be a very small step in comparison to what other companies are offering. For example, T-Mobile 5G is also launching in December, and will cover 200 million people. Whereas AT&T’s initial launch will only cover tens of millions.
Having said this, one major plus point against AT&T's new low-band service is that it will work better indoors. And Kevin Petersen defended the lack of nationwide coverage by explaining that it’s "ever-evolving".
Perhaps the biggest kicker for consumers though is that initial 5G speeds will only be "on par" with what AT&T 4G LTE users get on its 5GE network. This means super-fast speeds and latency that 5G promises won’t be seen.
So, why should people buy into AT&T’s 5G right away? "I think about it as the first step into the future," Petersen said. "It’s something that will evolve."
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