AT&T's mobile 5G network is finally taking shape, as the company has added five new cities to its list seven that will receive service before the end of 2018.
The new cities consist of Houston, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans and San Antonio. Those are joining Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Raleigh and Waco as AT&T's 5G rollout locations. The company stipulates that "parts" of these cities will have access to 5G, indicating that consumers won't see comprehensive coverage in the early stages.
In addition to those 12 cities, AT&T has also announced another seven that will see 5G in 2019: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose.
As exciting as this step toward rolling out a 5G network may be, there is an important caveat to be mindful of: it doesn't impact smartphones just yet. Instead, AT&T will begin offering what it calls a "puck" — in other words, a mobile hotspot — as a way of bridging the gap between the launch of its faster wireless network and a lack of devices that will be able to initially support it. The first phones capable of taking advantage of 5G's faster speeds and lower latency aren't arriving until next year.
AT&T's announcement also coincided with the success of its first 5G-based call in Waco over millimeter wave, as well as the confirmation of a new partnership with Samsung as one of the company's equipment providers. That would appear to cover networking gear rather than consumer-targeted devices like phones and tablets — a fact AT&T confirmed to us when we reached out for clarification.
While AT&T increases its coverage area, rival carriers have been hard at work bolstering their 5G offerings in their own ways. Verizon says it's just completed a 5G call using what it described as a "smartphone-type device" on a commercial network, and it's also tested streaming video and video calling over 5G; last month, Big Red confirmed it would bring 5G compatibility to the new Moto Z3 phone early next year through the use of a Moto Mod, while it's Meanwhile, Sprint announced it had entered an exclusive partnership with LG to launch a 5G-compatible handset in the first half of 2019.