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AT&T’s faster millimeter wave 5G network launches on March 6th with the S20 Plus and Ultra

AT&T’s faster millimeter wave 5G network launches on March 6th with the S20 Plus and Ultra

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Faster 5G speeds are finally coming to AT&T

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

AT&T is finally making its faster, mmWave 5G network — which it calls “5G Plus” — available to customers this Friday, alongside the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus and S20 Ultra. The launch marks the first time that customers will be able to access both the sub-6GHz and mmWave portions of AT&T’s network.

The mmWave launch comes just a few months after AT&T opened up access to its sub-6GHz 850MHz network back in December 2019. AT&T’s mmWave network has technically been available for months, but access has been limited to select commercial partners until now.

A quick recap of AT&T’s different 5G brands:

  • 5G E — really just upgraded LTE
  • 5G — uses low-band 850MHz spectrum technology, similar to T-Mobile’s 600MHz network, which will comprise the bulk of the carrier’s 5G network across the US
  • 5G Plus — mmWave 5G, based in high-band radio frequencies

The newly available high-band network promises even faster speeds than AT&T’s existing low-band offerings, with the carrier promising peak download speeds of over 2Gbps. That’s a big jump — assuming real-world tests live up to it — especially since even AT&T COO John Stankey has acknowledged that the difference between the current sub-6GHz network and the company’s LTE network “is not huge,” via Fierce Wireless.

AT&T’s mmWave network will only be available on the S20 Plus and S20 Ultra, at least for the foreseeable future. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G — AT&T’s first 5G phone — will only be able to access the slower, low-band 850MHz portion of the network, as will the regular S20 model (which lacks mmWave support) and the upcoming LG V60 ThinQ 5G.

Along with the announcement that the mmWave network would be available to customers, AT&T also is expanding its low-band 5G network to another 22 markets, including Denver, CO; Cincinnati, OH; Columbus, OH; Albany, NY; Binghamton, NY; and Athens, GA, for a total of 80 cities across the United States. The mmWave version of 5G will be available in parts of 35 cities when it launches this Friday — that rollout is limited by the nature of mmWave 5G technology, which offers faster speeds but has far more limited range and tends to require direct line-of-sight access to antennas for best results.

AT&T plans to continue to build out both its broader sub-6GHz and faster mmWave 5G networks in the coming months and years, with the company planning to offer nationwide coverage this year.

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