AT&T rolled out its fifth generation wireless network Tuesday in Spokane, but customers may not see significantly faster speeds than offered by existing service just yet.
The wireless provider launched its 5G low-band service in 13 markets – including Spokane – this week in an effort to expand coverage nationwide by the second half of the year.
AT&T’s low-band 5G is about two times faster than LTE service and covers larger areas than the provider’s 5G+ network, which operates at faster speeds, but shorter distances.
“AT&T began rolling out the country’s first 5G network in December 2018, and I’m thrilled our customers in Spokane can now be part of the 5G experience,” Morgan Collins, vice president and general manager of pacific states at AT&T, said in an email. “Over time, 5G will deliver latency and capacity enhancements that will make revolutionary new capabilities possible for consumers and businesses.”
The new 5G service is included in AT&T’s unlimited elite and extra plans at no additional charge, but customers will need a compatible device to access the network.
AT&T is releasing the Samsung Galaxy S20 – a 5G compatible device – online and in stores March 6. It currently sells the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G, another 5G compatible device.
The company provides 5G in 45 markets nationwide and 5G+ service in parts of 35 major metro areas.
U.S. telecom companies anticipate investing more than $275 billion over the next five years to build next-generation 5G networks nationwide, according to wireless trade organization CTIA. Additionally, companies expect to invest more than $262 million into building 5G networks in the Spokane area that could generate $486 million in economic growth, according to the organization.
The cities of Spokane Valley and Spokane have both approved measures to allow installation of small cell antennas on utility poles and street lamps to support 5G networks.
Small cell antennas are the essential infrastructure for millimeter wave spectrum, which transfers data faster over a shorter distance and will eventually support the internet of things.
In December, T-Mobile launched its 600 MHz low-band spectrum in Spokane, while Verizon rolled out its 5G Ultra Wideband network in several areas of the city.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.