Back at MWC in late February, Sprint promised to bring 5G coverage to 9 cities by the first half of 2019. And now, with the launch of 5G in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Phoenix, Sprint has finally made good on its promise while also hitting some important 5G milestones.
Sure, Sprint’s initial timeline may have been overly optimistic, but missing its target date by a couple of months ain’t bad, especially considering the newness of 5G and how some carriers like AT&T still don’t have any commercially available 5G coverage. (AT&T 5G is currently restricted to business and enterprise customers for now.)
But more importantly, with 5G coverage in nine different cities, Sprint’s 5G network now blankets some of the biggest metro areas in the U.S., covering around 2,100 square miles and 11 million people—more than any other domestic carrier to date.
The launch of 5G in New York also brings with it an important upgrade, as Sprint’s 5G network will be handling both upstream and downstream traffic, unlike what you get on Verizon and T-Mobile, which still rely on 4G LTE to handle uploads. That means Sprint’s 5G delivers something closer to a “true” all-encompassing cellular network that handles both ends of your data stream.
According to tests conducted by Ookla, average 5G download speeds on Sprint are 203.8 Mbps, which Sprint claims is nearly six times the speed of traditional 4G LTE downloads (35.2 Mbps).
In New York, Sprint’s 5G network will cover the lower half of Mahattan from south of Central Park down to Battery Park, with plans to expand to more areas and neighborhoods as we move into 2020.
Because Sprint’s 5G network is based on band 41 (which is a mid-range signal that runs at 2.5 GHz), Sprint’s 5G should penetrate inside buildings better than networks that rely on mmWave frequencies like Verizon’s 5G, potentially making Sprint’s 5G network more useful for both home and mobile use. (Check back for more 5G testing soon.)
To help expand its portfolio of 5G devices, today, Sprint also is adding support for the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, which with a full retail price of $840, is now the cheapest 5G phone on the market (aside from a Moto Z2 Force or Moto Z3 with a 5G Moto Mod).
Finally, Sprint is also updating its $80 Unlimited Premium data plan which includes support for 5G devices, along with 100GB of LTE mobile hotspot usage, full HD video streaming, and free subscriptions to Hulu, Amazon Prime, Twitch Prime, and Tidal Hifi.
However, the looming merger between Sprint and T-Mobile still hangs in the air, and while Sprint execs at its 5G launch event in remained optimistic about the deal going through, nothing has been finalized just yet.
So while the race between carriers over 5G may not hold a lot of value for people living in less populated locations that are still waiting for one 5G network to launch in their area, at least it’s nice to see Sprint follow through on its road map, even if it took a little longer than expected.
Either way, now that Sprint has 5G network up and running in Gizmodo’s home turf, stay tuned for a long-term review of what 5G is actually like to use and live with on a daily basis.