Sprint's vice president of product engineering and development, Ryan Sullivan was quick to say that they are also working with Samsung on a 5G-ready smartphone that is due to be released next year. This comes after Verizon made the announcement yesterday that it was releasing a 5G smartphone with Samsung, and AT&T piggybacking saying "me too". And now, Sprint is also joining the fray saying that "We're one of Samsung's biggest customers. You better believe we're working with them as well," in an interview with PCMag ahead of Qualcomm's Snapdragon Tech Summit which kicked off today. Sullivan also talked about how Sprint has a big advantage over AT&T and Verizon in building out its 5G network. This is because AT&T and Verizon are building brand-new networks, using millimeter wave or mmWave, technology. While Sprint is going to be converting its existing 2.5GHz towers to work with 5G on the same radio bands. Sprint is confident that this is going to allow them to cover more area, faster. Sullivan actually stated that it will offer mobile 5G service in Los Angeles from "Dodgers Stadium to Santa Monica."
Verizon has already launched a 5G network in a handful of cities, but that is a fixed 5G network – meaning that it only works in your home, similar to your home internet connection. Sprint, (as well as T-Mobile and AT&T) are focusing on mobile 5G first. Sprint is not even planning to do a fixed 5G network, but it has said that its network will be strong enough for users to use it as their home internet network – and ditch their ISP. Sullivan referenced the HTC-made hub that was announced recently, saying that the hub will be good enough for home internet connections. Saying that the hub will work well for "small households, apartment dwellers, even small businesses." Sprint also noted that devices on 5G won't have the same deprioritization thresholds that you see on 4G LTE these days. Sprint did not explain how that will work yet, but that will likely come in the near future.
Background: Sprint believes that its 2.5GHz spectrum, that it actually got from acquiring Clear Wire a few years ago, is going to help it tremendously in the 5G world. It has already really helped out its 4G LTE network, with carrier aggregation and improving the bandwidth on its network, which in turn improves the speed of its network. Sprint (as well as T-Mobile) feel that this is a better option than using millimeter-wave, which is going to be pretty costly for AT&T and Verizon to rollout across the country. With 5G being all about the capacity, and other carriers using much higher spectrum than Sprint's 2.5GHz, it does have a bit of a leg up, even though it is not launching its 5G network until next year. However, when it does launch this network, it's going to be a pretty fast rollout – at least for the major metro areas, which it is planning to roll out first. Sprint will also be using Massive MIMO, a technology that it is already using with its Gigabit LTE network, which provides more capacity – even more than the spectrum would normally allow. And that also translates to faster speeds, even when there are a ton of devices connected to the same access point.
All of the carriers have slowly been announcing products that work on 5G for their network. As that is part of rolling out a new network like 5G. If you aren't selling any smartphones, hotspots, or anything else that can actually connect to 5G, then announcing that your 5G network is available doesn't make a whole lot of sense. That is because no one can actually use it. So the carriers have been announcing a number of devices that are coming soon, which is not normal in the wireless world. Usually these get announced when they are official. But Sprint has already announced a "hub" – which is more of a hotspot – that is being made by HTC. It has also announced a smartphone with LG, and now Samsung. These are all slated to be available in the first half of next year. It is entirely possible that the Samsung smartphone is going to be one smartphone available on all the carriers – seeing as the only carrier that has not announced that it is working with Samsung so far, is T-Mobile. And that will likely change soon.
Impact: Sprint working with Samsung is indeed no surprise. Samsung is the largest maker of Android smartphones – and depending on when you look at the market share, the largest smartphone maker period. So it would be more surprising to see Sprint not working with Samsung – after all, the two have worked together on exclusive devices in the past. No details of this device have been unveiled, however, Samsung did announced at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit today that it will be running on the new Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform. This is the new Premium Tier processor that Qualcomm announced today in Hawaii. This is the first chipset to have a 5G modem built-in, so that it can connect to 5G networks. Of course, it will also have 4G LTE support included so if you do not have 5G where you live, your phone won't become unusable. We do also know that this smartphone will debut in the first half of 2019. Now it is unclear when in 2019, but it is very possible that Samsung could show it off at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Which takes place at the end of February. That is usually where it would debut the next Galaxy S smartphone. However rumors recently have been pointing towards a CES launch for the Galaxy S10 – though that is still unlikely for Samsung. But if it is building a premium, 5G smartphone, announcing that at MWC by itself would make plenty of sense. Of course, all of this is still pretty far off, but we should be hearing plenty about 5G and 5G-compatible smartphones in 2019.