Tomorrow May 17, Sprint will start taking pre-orders for its first 5G phone—the LG V50 and its first 5G hotspot the HTC 5G in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Kansas City, Sprint’s first four 5G markets.
The devices will be delivered on May 31, so that’s when we expect Sprint to turn on its mid-band 5G network in those cities. Sprint’s 5G approach is different from that of AT&T and Verizon so far. By using existing cellular bands, Sprint can cover considerably more area than AT&T and Verizon have been able to do with their millimeter-wave towers, although that may be at the cost of overall speed.
Sprint is also committed to launching 5G in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. in “the coming weeks,” the carrier said.
Beyond that, though, things get hazy because Sprint’s long-term plans are trapped in the vortex of its proposed merger with T-Mobile. If the two carriers successfully merge, both of their 5G launch plans may radically change; if the FCC or DOJ prohibits them from merging, well, that would occasion a different set of plans. The FCC’s current “shot clock” suggests that a merger decision will come in June.
Sprint’s announcement today comes as Verizon makes its second 5G phone, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, available in Chicago and Minneapolis. The “race to 5G” has just gotten started, though, as Verizon’s coverage in its first cities is very limited right now. Sprint’s broader, mid-band 5G could quickly leapfrog Verizon on coverage.