Sprint will start offering 5G service along with multiple 5G-enabled Android smartphones from a "leading Korean manufacturer" in the first half of 2019, Chief Executive Officer Marcelo Claure said Friday during the company's latest earnings call hosted shortly after the publication of its lukewarm financials covering the final quarter of the last calendar year. While the executive didn't elaborate on the matter, the comment is strongly indicative of Samsung being Sprint's partner of choice, especially as the company's Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus flagships are both widely expected to be 5G-ready. The only other OEM that could fit Mr. Claure's description is LG but its recent decision to stop doing arbitrary flagship releases every 12 months makes that scenario significantly less likely.
While the Overland Park, Kansas-based firm is presently targeting early 2019 for the launch of its 5G offerings, the deployment may start as late as mid-2019, with Mr. Claure saying the company is committed to rolling out the mobile service in the first half of the following year. The head of the fourth-largest wireless carrier in the United States also touted its vast spectrum holdings that are meant to serve as the backbone of its 5G service, saying that Sprint is uniquely positioned as the only telecom that doesn't have to count on additional spectrum auctions or compromise the extent of its next infrastructural upgrade due to any such limitations. Going forward, the company is looking to deploy 40,000 additional outdoor small cell stations and no fewer than 15,000 strand-mounted small cells, with the latter being meant for installation in partnership with a number of cable companies. The infrastructural investments should provide Sprint with a network that's dense enough to allow for 5G, Mr. Claure suggested.
Both AT&T and Verizon previously said they're committed to deploying 5G offerings in the second half of 2018, but neither of the two is expected to deliver a truly wireless solution for smartphones. Instead, Verizon is focusing on fixed wireless access services meant to densify its network in preparation for the "real" 5G rollout and compete with broadband in the process of doing so, whereas AT&T has yet to elaborate on its plans, though it recently said its network initially won't be directly usable with any smartphone and will instead debut along with some kind of a compatible hotspot device.