Sprint has officially launched its 5G network in a handful of US cities: Texas, Georgia and Kansas/Missouri today, with aims to expand to more including Los Angeles and New York City by the end of 2019. The carrier is the third to join the 5G race this year after Verizon and AT&T back in April.
Sprint 5G is live today in Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and Kansas City. Customers can access the network by picking up a Sprint 5G phone – the LG V50 ThinQ 5G or an HTC 5G Hub, or the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G in the coming months (‘summer’ in the northern hemisphere).
Unlike the ‘millimeter wave’ 5G in Verizon and AT&T’s nascent networks, Sprint is opting to spread their low-frequency network essentially on top of its existing 4G LTE one – literally, with the carrier deploying its 5G Massive MIMO radios (which broadcast on the 2.5 Ghz mid-band spectrum that Sprint already uses) on existing 4G cell sites. The 5G network should then have similar (if not identical) coverage to its current 4G range.
Pros and cons in the early days of 5G
We’ll have to see whether Sprint’s 5G network performs better than its competitors; almost two months after launching, Verizon 5G mmWave has demonstrated over 1 Gpbs download speeds, but only within a few blocks in Chicago and Minneapolis.
Thus far, reporters have noted speeds of 100 Mbps (opens in new tab) up to 250 Mbps (opens in new tab), with some claiming up to 700 Mbps. That’s obviously lower than Verizon’s 5G speeds, but lower is expected from Sprint’s sub-6 network – the bigger question is how far that coverage extends, at least in the early days of both networks.
If Sprint’s 5G network continues to underperform, we’ll have larger concerns, but building out a new network on top of the old is promising.