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Atlanta Among First In Line For 5G Service, And Now A Phone Is Coming

Atlanta is among the first markets slated to get 5G mobile service.
Atlanta is among the first markets slated to get 5G mobile service.
Credit Francisco Seco / Associated Press

The first 5G capable mobile phone will hit the market in the first half of 2019, Sprint and electronics manufacturer LG announced this week.

Atlanta is among the first markets slated to get the next generation mobile service. The biggest difference comes in speed, which developers say could be as much as 1,000 times faster than 4G.

The problem with all that speed is that today’s smartphones can’t keep up. And until this week, there was no phone on the market capable of unlocking 5G’s potential.

“You’re going to have to have a higher end processor, a unique chipset, [and] more battery power,” says Sprint’s Director of Device Portfolio Strategy, John Tudhope of the needs of a 5G-capable phone.

The Sprint/LG phone has the necessary capacity, he says.

Tudhope wouldn’t talk about pricing or give a specific release date, but only would say customers can expect to see it sometime in the first half of 2019. Depending on timing, the Sprint/LG venture would be the first to market with a fully-integrated 5G handset. (Motorola/Verizon debuted a 5G-capable mobile phone on Thursday, the Moto Z3, although that device requires a separate modification to function on 5G.)

Tudhope says given Atlanta’s size and customer base, the company plans to stock enough phones that shortages won’t be an issue.

As far as 5G service, AT&T plans a limited Atlanta release later this year, with other carriers pegging debuts for 2019. That includes Sprint, which in a few months will start swapping out antennas and other equipment at its tower sites, replacing them with MassiveMIMO hardware. The company says those sites are capable of delivering not just faster speeds, but also can accommodate up to 10 times the volume of current LTE systems.

In Atlanta, Sprint is focused on throwing the switch sometime before the Super Bowl in early February, says Heather Campbell, Sprint’s Director of RF Engineering.

“Our goal is to really show everything we can do at the Super Bowl and make it fantastic.”