AT&T turns on 5G in 10 markets using low band

AT&T said its 5G service, for both consumers and businesses, is now live in 10 markets. Consumers in Birmingham, Ala., Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Providence, R.I., Rochester, N.Y., San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif., market areas can now access AT&T’s low-band 5G network using the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G. 

AT&T now offers its next generation network over both low-band 5G and high-band 5G in cities across the U.S. and it promises to expand rapidly, saying it’s on track to offer nationwide AT&T 5G coverage over low band in the first half of 2020. 

Here's a map (PDF) of the current low-band markets. Other markets expected to come online soon include Boston, Bridgeport, Conn., Buffalo, N.Y., Las Vegas, Louisville, Ky., New York City, and others.

“We believe 5G technology will be game-changing, and we continue to help drive this next wave of innovation,” said Scott Mair, president of AT&T Technology Operations, in a statement. “We were the first in the U.S. to offer commercial mobile 5G, and this is the next step as we build to nationwide service in the first half of 2020.”

A company representative confirmed the low band refers to 850 MHz and high band is 39 GHz.

RELATED: AT&T to launch 5G for consumers using low-band 850 MHz spectrum

The Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G will be in AT&T stores nationwide and online. For a limited time, customers can get the device for as low as $350 when purchased on a qualifying device installment plan, with an eligible unlimited plan and trade in.  

Distinguishing between high, low bands

AT&T explained that it offers “two flavors” of next-gen 5G technology. The low-band 5G—which it’s calling 5G—initially offers broad coverage areas for both consumers and businesses; it’s ideal for mobile customers who need performance while on the move.

The high-band 5G, which AT&T is calling 5G+, offers extra speed and capacity to serve high-traffic areas and places like arenas, campuses and the like. It’s currently available only for businesses and “collaborators” who are exploring new ways to “unlock the significant performance capabilities” offered in the higher band spectrum. That service is now offered in parts of 23 cities, including recent entries into parts of King of Prussia and West Hollywood.

AT&T added that its LTE customers nationwide are already seeing the benefits from the upgrades it has made to the network while preparing it for 5G. It offers 5G Evolution—which are areas with LTE-Advanced technologies—in more than 550 markets, with speeds up to twice as fast as LTE.

Indeed, during a Barclays investor event on Thursday, AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh, who started in the role on Oct. 1, said for the first time in a very long time, AT&T’s network is in the strongest position it’s ever been in. That comes in part from the spectrum it deployed over the past couple years.

5G first begins with the core network. Subscribers will make their purchase decisions based on speed and the quality of the network, and “I’m proud to say that, as the nation’s best network and the fastest network, we continue to be in a leadership position,” he said. In fact, in the 5G realm, there’s been a lot of hype and a lot of snark throughout the industry, he added.

He was on the ground with the technology team when AT&T deployed the first standards-based 5G mobile service. As it has been deploying incremental millimeter wave high-band 5G sites in venues and high-traffic locations, it’s also been lifting up its 5G New Radio assets on its towers through the One Touch program, in association with the FirstNet deployment. “So we’re in a really good position to launch our sub 6 5G network in the middle of next year,” he said.

The irony is that over the last two years, as AT&T engineers have been deploying the spectrum and getting the backhaul and fiber in place, “our 5G Evolution network is actually the fastest network in the U.S. and remains the fastest network today,” McElfresh said, regardless of any recent market launch by the likes of T-Mobile.

RELATED: T-Mobile bashes Verizon, AT&T as it lights up nationwide 5G

AT&T took some pretty healthy attacks from competitors like T-Mobile about its “5G Evolution” branding, and “tests here pretty soon will show just how fast and how solid our 5G Evolution network is relative to their most recent 5G nationwide launch,” he said.