Surprise: Sprint May Have Stronger 5G Debut Than Verizon, AT&T

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The race toward the fifth generation of wireless networks in the United States is now in full swing, yet Sprint is hardly the first name one would think of in the context of industry-leading pioneers.

Its Chief Technology Office, John Saw, is unsurprisingly claiming that's a mistake, having suggested the Kansas wireless carrier may actually have a significantly stronger 5G debut than both Verizon and AT&T. The industry veteran recently shared a map meant to remind us of Sprint's 5G rollout plans, i.e. the fact that Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, and Atlanta are still on course to receive access to the company's new network based on the 3GPP's latest wireless standard.

While perhaps dubious at first, Mr. Saw's claim is far from shocking seeing how both Verizon and AT&T had rather underwhelming 5G launches over the course of the last several months and one-upping them shouldn't be particularly hard.

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Late last year, both telecom giants committed more energy toward claims of becoming the first to embrace the new wireless standard instead of making the said technology actually usable. E.g. 5G Home, which is how Verizon calls its seminal service, is based on a proprietary standard instead of a specification approved by the 3GPP. In other words, its scalability is close to being non-existent and the company will either drop it in the near future in order to focus on what can actually be called "5G" or continue maintaining it as a niche offering with a rather limited appeal.

On the other hand, AT&T's first 5G service is more technologically relevant, i.e. has a significantly higher potential in the context of long-term applications, but the firm is still slow to expand its availability. On the other hand, that approach is being pursued in order to allow its R&D department to focus on the performance aspect of the technology, also known as the part customers actually care about.

So, slow and steady is how Sprint is deciding to take things with the next generation of wireless and that's certainly not a bad thing seeing how it's still making steady progress and should have something to show for all its work and investments in the coming weeks.

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What's not so great is the fact that its overall future is presently highly uncertain; despite the successes of former CEO Marcelo Claure, now the company's Executive Chairman, Sprint remains extremely leveraged. The T-Mobile merger was meant to address that fact and provide the company with a clear out while simultaneously ensuring its strongest suits, including its vast 2.5GHz portfolio, are utilized in an optimal manner. However, the chances of that proposed tie-up actually going through appear to be smaller by the day.

T-Mobile resolved to some hail-Mary pledges over the course of the last several weeks as part of its latest attempt to generate some additional goodwill among Washington regulators. Industry analysts mostly interpreted that move as a sign of weakness and changed their predictions regarding the outcome of the consolidation proposal accordingly. T-Mobile and Sprint remain adamant the emerging 5G market in the U.S. would benefit from their merger, i.e. become more competitive.

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