Just in time for MWC 2019, Sprint has now announced that its 3GPP standards-based 5G is now officially ready for four cities, with five more coming before the first half of the year ends. The first of those will be turned on for consumers as early as May, including for residents in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Kansas City. Sprint hasn't outlined exactly what areas of those cities will be able to access the next-generation network but does say that around 230 square miles of the Dallas Fort Worth area are included.
In total, once all nine cities have seen the rollout, including 30 square miles from Midtown to lower Manhattan, around 1000 square miles in total will be covered. Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington D.C. are set to be covered in the second service rollout mentioned above. Sprint also indicates that Chicago will be an easy switch over since it has already been turned on for testing of its 5G massive MIMO hardware and related software in the downtown area, from the Magnificent Mile and the Loop to the University of Illinois at Chicago.
An obscure coverage map
Sprint is, for all intents and purposes, not widely regarded as having great network coverage and its latest hints at coverage for 5G are fairly vague. That may not inspire confidence for some consumers but it is worth noting that the nation's fourth-largest carrier is the nation's leader when it comes to spectrum ownership for next-gen networks. In effect, the company's rollout will be much closer to the 'flipping the switch' analogy than its competitors.
That means its coverage maps could easily outpace the somewhat dismal offerings highlighted by recently compiled Verizon 5G offerings. Those were shown to only cover small segments and neighborhoods in 'cities' where service has been turned on via more traditional hardline-based installations.
Factoring in other carriers?
The ongoing merger deal between Sprint and T-Mobile could speed up the overall rollout of 5G for the two companies if underlying plans move forward as planned. The latter company has repeatedly pushed back flipping the switch on its own network, which is "ready to go" in as many as 30 US cities but has not flipped the switch yet pending the release of smartphones with network support.
The pushback could come down in part to the service provider's anticipation of the above-mentioned merger's approval. Switching on in the same areas as its current competitor would increase the density of the combined mobile carrier if the merger goes through but could also represent resources that have effectively gone to waste in overlapping areas.
Sprint's latest announcement won't just be good news for its own customers either. Not only will the impending 5G be great for the overarching IoT from city infrastructure to smart cars. It will also improve things for Google Fi customers.
Google's MVNO, Google Fi, is reliant on Sprint's network and towers in some regions and an announcement made by the company yesterday means that Fi customers will have access to that 5G network in those nine cities as well. The search giant's service supports any handset that's compatible with Sprint, T-Mobile, or U.S. Cellular. So as soon as any of those carriers flips the switch, customers should be able to bring 5G devices compatible with those networks over to Google Fi and have access to 5G.