AT&T 5G in the low-band now officially meets the FCC's definition as a nationwide network. And the company has plans to expand that network to a much wider audience of users too. That's based on a recent report from CNET, stemming from the company's second-quarter earnings report.
In order to meet the definition of a nationwide network, the FCC requires a network to reach at least 200 million people. AT&T 5G now reaches 205 million. The company says it managed to hit the figure after it turned on its network in 40 new markets. Among those are Minneapolis, San Antonio, Houston, and Jacksonville. That took its total to 395 markets covered.
That makes AT&T just the second of the major carriers in the US to accomplish the feat.
Low-band isn't going to be the fastest 5G around, from AT&T or anybody else
Low-band 5G is one of two primary technologies that next-gen networks rely on. And it's not the faster of the two. In fact, AT&T effectively used the same tech as T-Mobile to reach its nationwide status. As noted in earlier reports, high-band or mmWave 5G is the faster of the new technologies. That's the network type Verizon has focused on for its roll-out so far — although it will be rolling its own nationwide low-band network sooner than later.
That's because low-band, while only significantly better than top 4G implementations on capacity and latency, has a wider-spanning signal. By comparison, mmWave has chiefly been used in cities. The latency and capacity should ultimately result in net speed gains for users too. But this isn't quite the massive improvement many users might be hoping for.
AT&T has launched mmWave 5G in just 35 markets.
More users still will have access in early August
Simultaneously, AT&T has revealed that more customers than ever will soon have access to 5G. As of August 7, those on its Unlimited Starter plan — its most budget-friendly unlimited plan — will gain access too. Right now, it's only available for more expensive plans.
That expansion will apply to AT&T prepaid provider Cricket too, to an extent. As of August 21, Cricket prepaid users will be able to access 5G too. That's as long as they have an AT&T 5G network-compatible phone.