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The speedy 5G network service we've been hearing about hasn't yet swept the nation, but the footprint continues to grow.
Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon—three of the country’s four biggest wireless carriers—are expanding their (admittedly very small) 5G networks for consumers.
This week Sprint turned on service in parts of Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. It had previously launched service in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Kansas City, Kan.
That followed Verizon's push into parts of Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., earlier this month. It had previously launched service in parts of Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, Providence, R.I., and St. Paul, Minn.
And in late June, T-Mobile launched its first 5G service, covering pockets of Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York.
Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon are selling versions of the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G phone for use on their networks. Verizon and Sprint also offer the LG V50 ThinQ. And Verizon’s network exclusively works with the just-launched Samsung Galaxy Note10 5G, along with Motorola’s Moto Z3 and Z4, which can be made 5G-compatible with a $350 attachment. Another new phone from OnePlus is on the way.
But those amount to small first steps, with many more to follow. AT&T has been rolling out a 5G network, too, but only for select users and once again only in parts of a few big cities.
According to telecommunications experts, 5G speeds—five times faster than 4G connections at peak performance—will eventually allow users to download a movie in just 5 seconds. They’ll also pave the way for the instantaneous response times required to safely perform robotic surgery and operate self-driving cars that communicate with other vehicles and road infrastructure.
Here’s a look at the broader 5G landscape, including which parts of the U.S. are getting 5G service first.
The carrier’s 5G service has officially started in the metropolitan areas of Atlanta; Chicago; Denver; Detroit; Indianapolis; Minneapolis; Phoenix; Providence, R.I.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Washington, D.C., though it’s currently limited to a few neighborhoods and the areas surrounding flagship Verizon stores.
The company says it plans to roll out 5G service to parts of more than 30 U.S. cities this year. They include include Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Des Moines, Iowa; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Little Rock, Ark.; Memphis, Tenn.; San Diego; and Salt Lake City.
Additional cities will be announced later in the year.
Accessing the Verizon 5G network will eventually cost $10 per device on top of the fees for its Play More, Do More, and Get More Unlimited plans. Verizon is currently waiving those charges for a limited time.
The 5G service will be unlimited as well, and Verizon says there will be no throttling of data speeds, even when the network gets busy. Carriers, including Verizon, sometimes slow down data speeds to decrease network congestion.
You can also tether your laptop to a 5G-enabled phone for use as a hot spot without paying an extra charge.
Phone options: Verizon carries the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and LG V50 ThinQ, along with the Motorola Moto Z3 and Z4. It’s also the exclusive carrier for the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G.
Sprint officially rolled out its 5G service in the Atlanta; Dallas; Houston; and Kansas City, Kan., metropolitan areas in May. It added Chicago to the mix in July. And parts of the Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. markets got service in August.
But like the other carriers, Sprint isn’t providing coverage citywide, only in select spots.
Sprint says it won't charge extra for 5G service, but you’re required to sign up for the carrier’s Unlimited Premium plan, which at $85 for one line is the company’s most expensive option.
Phone options: The LG V50 ThinQ went on sale in May. The carrier has since added the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G to its lineup and says it will carry the Note10+ 5G “at a later date.”
Sprint also says it will sell a new 5G phone from OnePlus. But device specifications, pricing, and exact timing have yet to be announced.
This carrier has come under fire from other carriers for labeling its high-speed 4G service “5G Evolution,” potentially misleading consumers into thinking it’s genuine 5G.
It has so far rolled out real 5G service in parts of 21 U.S. cities; recently adding New York to the mix. But it’s not available to all consumers just yet, only for select businesses and others.
AT&T says it expects to have a nationwide 5G network in place by early 2020.
Phone options: AT&T started selling the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G earlier this month, but only to business customers. AT&T also plans to offer the Galaxy Note10+ 5G by the end of this year.
T-Mobile, which recently received Department of Justice approval to merge with Sprint, launched its network in late June in parts of Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York.
It also says it will have a nationwide network in place in 2020. Assuming its merger with Sprint takes place, it doesn't plan to charge extra for 5G service.
Phone options: T-Mobile sells the Galaxy S10 5G online and in select stores in its first 5G markets. It also plans to start selling its own version of the Note10+ 5G in the fourth quarter of this year.
The Galaxy S10 5G originally reached stores as a Verizon exclusive in May. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile started selling it in June, but so far AT&T is selling it only to business customers.
The S10 5G, which will come in both black and silver, starts at $1,300 for a version with 256 gigabytes of storage. Boosting the storage to 512GB will cost you $100 more.
The S10 5G’s display, measuring 6.7 inches diagonally, is Samsung’s biggest yet. The model has six cameras, including a 3D depth camera, and will be able to create videos in portrait mode. All that will be powered by a monster 4,500-milliamp-hour battery.
The Note10+ 5G, which just went on sale, features a 6.8-inch display and the Note line’s trademark stylus. It also starts at $1,300.
Separately, the company has also pledged to produce a 5G version of the Galaxy Fold, a phone that opens up into a small tablet. But the launch of the 4G Fold has been indefinitely delayed following media reports of hardware malfunctions. Samsung now says that phone will start shipping in September, but there’s no word yet on when the 5G model will follow.
The LG V50 ThinQ first went on sale through Sprint, but now Verizon is selling it for $1,000, too.
Like the V40 ThinQ before it, the V50 has five cameras—two on the front and three on the back. It also boasts a 4,000mAh battery, stereo boom-box speaker, and 6.4-inch OLED display.
The Moto Z4, which went on sale through Verizon in June, works with the Mod attachments that make the existing Moto Z3 phone compatible with Verizon’s 5G network. The Mod retails for $350.
The Z4, which retails for $500, boasts a 6.4-inch OLED display and a 3,600mAh battery, making it considerably bigger and more powerful than the Z3. That phone has a 6-inch display and a 2,000mAh battery.
The Z3 currently sells for $480 at Verizon. Before the 5G launch, the Z3 did well in our testing, but just keep in mind that it’s a midpriced phone with midpriced features.
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