AT&T has now launched its own millimeter-wave 5G service, dubbed 5G+, in New York City but that's not necessarily great news for the average customer. That's because while this is a true 5G, unlike the trend with the company's 5GE — really 4G LTE-A — it's not going to be available for everybody. At least not at first.
To begin with, AT&T is only rolling out the service to unspecified areas of the city and it's also only set to be accessible to business customers or developers. The first of those customers to gain access will be able to utilize 5G+ on AT&T networks via Samsung's Galaxy 10 5G.
Preparations toward widespread availability before rolling out to consumers appears to be at the heart of that decision. The network will also be central to the opening of the carrier's WarnerMedia Innovation Lab. The test facility is scheduled to begin operating in early 2020. As a testbed for R&D in new entertainment experiences, 5G will undoubtedly play a key role in projects stemming from the 20,000 square-foot Chelsea site.
AT&T says it plans to work with city officials to "extend coverage to more neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs."
Alongside plans for New York City, AT&T also provided a closer look at its plotted course for 5G at the nationwide scale. Through the first half of next year, the company will be launching its sub-6GHz 5G network and ramping up 5G+. The addition of New York brings the total to 21 cities that have access to 5G+, as of this writing.
5G+, due to the fact that it's pushed over millimeter-wave bands, covers a shorter range. As its name implies, it will be the faster of the two technologies. Sub-6GHz frequencies have a much longer range. So those will be part of the larger-scale network implementations nationwide. Sometime in the second half of next year, AT&T plans to offer its 5G coverage nationwide while 5G+ will likely be concentrated in cities.
The two networking technologies will work in conjunction with one another and existing 4G implementations.
The company says it has spent approximately $1.4 billion in New York over the past two to three years. Similar support and investments such as those the company has implemented in that region will be seen elsewhere too.
When can other users access 5G in New York?
AT&T has not, for the time being, provided any details about when exactly New Yorkers will gain access to its new network in the city. Presumably, the metropolitan region will serve as an additional test-bed before the two 5G services are joined. The implication is that 5G+ and 5G will become available around the same time for the wider city area.
While the gap in the speed between the two technologies in use by AT&T and other carriers in the US is significant, that's not going to have a huge impact on end-users. Latency will play a much bigger role and both 5G+ and 5G should provide a similar reduction on that front. The lower latency will make 5G suitable for not just mobile networks but for self-driving vehicles, city infrastructure monitoring, and a wide assortment of industrial or enterprise use cases.