Sprint on Thursday announced its mobile 5G network is now live in four markets, covering nearly 3.6 million people from the onset.
Coverage in today’s launch cities of Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and Kansas City, Mo., extends across about 1,115 square miles, with plans to expand to five additional markets in the coming weeks.
Verizon and AT&T previously launched mobile 5G services in select cities with both carriers’ initial 5G networks using high-band millimeter wave spectrum, unlike Sprint, which is utilizing 2.5 GHz for 5G. Millimeter wave frequencies can deliver super-fast speeds (real-world tests on Verizon’s 5G network clocked speeds of more than 1 Gbps), but coverage and reach is more limited compared to Sprint’s mid-band 5G launch.
T-Mobile has promised to deliver nationwide 5G in 2020, with broad 600 MHz coverage.
Sprint is leaning on Massive MIMO technology with radios from Ericsson that support split-mode and have been deployed on existing 4G cell sites, allowing the carrier to deliver both LTE-Advanced and 5G service simultaneously.
In Atlanta, Sprint says 5G covers 150 square miles, 575 square miles in greater Dallas-Fort Worth area, 165 square miles in Houston, and 225 square miles in Kansas City.
Up next, service is expected to launch in parts of Chicago, Los Angles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. Across its nine launch markets, Sprint expects to cover about 2,180 square miles and 11.5 million people in total.
“Sprint 5G is here and we’re proud to give customers true mobility and the largest initial 5G footprint in the country,” said Sprint CEO Michel Combes in a statement. “This is a momentous day and just the start of what we can achieve with T-Mobile, together building a better, faster, nationwide mobile 5G network that benefits all U.S. businesses and consumers.”
The network launch comes one day ahead of Sprint’s first 5G device launches. The LG V50 ThinQ 5G and the HTC 5G Hub will be available to consumers in the four launch cities starting Friday.
Sprint’s 5G network launch comes as reports from Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, indicate the DOJ may require Sprint and T-Mobile to spin out a new national wireless competitor in order to secure regulatory approval for their proposed $26.5 billion deal.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently announced his intent to recommend approval of the deal in light of concessions that include divesting Sprint’s prepaid brand Boost Mobile and commitments related to 5G network buildouts, including rural areas, and not raising prices for three years.
However, the Justice Department must still sign off and the agency’s antitrust head Makan Delrahim is reportedly not yet convinced. Bloomberg reported Delrahim still has concerns over harms to competition, as the merger would cut the number of nationwide carriers from four to three.