BARCELONA, Spain – Sprint executives are not impressed by AT&T‘s recent standards-based mobile 5G launch, stating that their company’s own planned network launch that is forthcoming by mid-year is the first “broad mobile 5G deployment.”
That statement was made by Sprint CEO Michele Combes, who, at a press conference at this week’s MWC Barcelona event, said that the carrier will cover more than 1,000 square miles and millions of people with its initial mobile 5G launch plans.
“When we say we are launching in nine markets, it’s for millions of people,” Combes said. “We will be the first to have a broad mobile 5G deployment.”
And, indeed, Sprint is putting some coverage number behind its 5G launch plans. The carrier will cover nearly 30 square miles and 1 million people in Manhattan as part of its New York City launch and 230 square miles in the greater Dallas area. Sprint CTO John Saw had previously explained that its Phoenix launch will cover more than 226 square miles and 2 million people. “This is not just hot spots,” he said.
The slight toward AT&T was spurred by questions regarding Sprint management claims from last year that it would be the first carrier in the country to launch a standards-based mobile 5G network. That title has since been claimed by AT&T, which launched its standard-based mobile 5G network in a dozen markets late last year.
Combes, however, explained that AT&T’s launch used millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum that limited the actual reach of that network. He said that Sprint would be the first to launch a standards-based 5G network that has actual coverage.
First 5G Markets
Beyond the geography lesson, Sprint also provided a bit more color on its plans to start beaming 5G signals through the sky, though its future beyond mid-year remains cloudy.
Saw said that Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Kansas City will be the first four markets to see the carrier’s 5G signal. Those markets will be followed by lighting up that network by mid-year in the five other cities that the carrier has already announced: Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C.
Sprint has been sitting on that nine-market plan since the middle of last year. However, its rivals have moved the bar in recent weeks by touting coverage plans that range from 30 markets by year-end – as announced by Verizon – to “nationwide” coverage in 2020, as claimed by AT&T and T-Mobile.
Of course, Sprint’s 5G plans are running under the cloud that its current executives might not be calling the shots on additional expansion plans. The carrier is in the process of being acquired by larger rival T-Mobile US. However, regulatory approval of that deal is still pending, though Sprint and T-Mobile US executives said they expect the deal to close by mid-year.
Despite the confidence, Combes did say that the carrier is continuing its operations under two tracks: one that has the carrier being acquired and one that has the deal falling apart. “We continue to manage the company as a standalone,” Combes said. “The merger will turbocharge those plans.