People across the country are using LTE 4G networks today, but soon those networks will be replaced with faster networks using 5G technology. Most major wireless carriers in the U.S. are gearing up for 5G rollout with some carriers expecting to launch their networks in a few cities this year, and others looking to 2019 for 5G rollout. AT&T recently predicted that 5G rollout might mean that smartphones go back to being carrier locked due to the lack of technology allowing the different 5G frequencies to be supported in a single modem.
AT&T has announced a 5G mobile hotspot that will be the first 5G device consumers can buy; it is called the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot, and it will be an AT&T exclusive. AT&T notes that it recently conducted the world's first millimeter wave mobile browsing session with a standards-based device on its 5G network using this hotspot; that browsing session happened in the last few days. That browsing session was performed in Waco, Texas, the same location where the first data transfer over millimeter wave tech was made in September. The modem inside the Netgear hotspot is a Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem; this is the first commercial 5G NR modem with millimeter wave capability.
AT&T says that it is on track to rollout mobile 5G services to the U.S. using this Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot to 12 cities this year and to 19 cities in early 2019; other markets will be announced individually. AT&T is being coy on the specifications for the Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot and says that more information on the device will be offered later this year.
AT&T's Mobility and Entertainment president, David Christopher, describes the first 5G browsing session as a "seminal moment" and says that the use of the commercial device over AT&T's 5G network "proves we are well on our way to the promise of mobile 5G for consumers." The cities that will get 5G service this year include Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, Waco, Houston, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, and San Antonio. Some of those cities will have coverage in limited areas.