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Sprint Will Flip the Switch on 5G in May

BARCELONA — Sprint announced on Sunday (Feb. 24) that its first 5G phone would be LG’s V50 ThinQ. Now we know when you’ll be able to use it: Sprint’s 5G network will go live in May, beginning in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City.

Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington D.C. will go online shortly thereafter, though Sprint isn’t giving those cities a specific launch date (only that it will happen in the first half of the year).

LG's V50 ThinQ is Sprint's first 5G smartphone.

LG's V50 ThinQ is Sprint's first 5G smartphone.

U.S. carriers are sprinting (pun intended) to be first with 5G, with AT&T even going as far as to label its LTE Advanced network 5G Evolution. Which is not 5G. (Sprint has filed suit against AT&T over that marketing tactic.)

Sprint CEO Michel Combes announced the May timing for Sprint’s 5G rollout at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, claiming that Sprint plans to be the “first real mobile 5G in the U.S. with real devices with real coverage.”

“That’s a real commercial launch for customers,” he said.

Combes is digging at AT&T, which launched its mobile 5G network in December but has only a mobile hotspot to use it, not a smartphone. Sprint will have a hotspot, too — HTC’s 5G Hub, a Sprint exclusive, which even has its own display.

And LG’s V50 ThinQ will be ready to go as soon as Sprint flips the switch, which is why the company claims it will be first — and for many people, a 5G phone will be the only way 5G feels real.

There’s a method to Sprint’s 5G rollout, particularly in terms of which areas will be blanketed with next-gen connectivity.

“We have a consistency in 5G coverage in those areas,” Sprint Chief Technology Officer John Saw said. “We picked those locations based on where we see LTE traffic. All over Manhattan is going to be covered. Outside of 5G coverage you will fall back to LTE Advanced.”

Aside from timing, Sprint also announced that Google Fi customers will have access to Sprint’s 5G network when a 5G phone that works on Google Fi is available.

Sprint customers will have instant access to Hatch's library of games.

Sprint customers will have instant access to Hatch's library of games.

Sprint is also working with gaming startup Hatch to make playing your favorite titles over 5G a breeze. Sprint customers will have instant access to the 100+ premium mobile games in Hatch’s library, streaming them straight from the cloud.

In the meantime, expect Sprint’s rivals to have their own 5G announcements as Mobile World Congress unfolds this week.