Carriers rush to announce 5G smartphones at CES

Verizon 5G logo
Sprint and Verizon have confirmed plans for the first 5G smartphones on their networks at CES. (FierceWireless)

The rush to 5G is on and the nation’s big four wireless carriers are clamoring to be first with a 5G smartphone on their network. And the floodgates have opened now that the country’s largest annual technology conference, CES, is underway.

Verizon and Sprint both confirmed plans for 5G smartphones on their networks this week. Sprint says a 5G smartphone from Samsung will be available in summer 2019. The Samsung device will support multiple spectrum bands licensed by Sprint, including Sprint’s 2.5 GHz, 1.9 GHz and 800 MHz, according to the carrier.

Back in August 2018, Sprint and LG announced plans to release what they claim to be the nation’s first mobile 5G smartphone, but the companies haven’t provided any updates of late. The carrier plans to launch its mobile 5G network in nine U.S. cities by June, and additional markets will be announced at a later date.

Verizon reaffirmed that its first 5G smartphone will be Motorola’s Moto Z3. The device is actually a 4G smartphone, but a modular accessory that connects to the back will make it capable of 5G speeds when it's released. Verizon hasn’t confirmed the timing for that release, but it could arrive in the next month or so.

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Samsung also showcased a 5G smartphone last month that will be an exclusive to Verizon before Sprint and AT&T gain access to the device at a later date, according to a report by CNET. That device is expected to the be second 5G-capable smartphone on Verizon's network.

Meanwhile, as with previous leaps in wireless network technologies, some mobile operators are muddying the waters with falsehoods and pushing the boundaries of truth to stake a claim in the 5G race. As previously confirmed to FierceWireless, AT&T has already started to change the “LTE” indicator on some of its Android phones to “5G E” in markets where the company offers 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM and other advanced LTE network technologies.

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AT&T’s 5G network is already live in some cities, but the carrier doesn’t have any 5G smartphones yet. For now, the only 5G device available on AT&T is the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot.

Verizon is taking issue with AT&T’s decision to rebrand advanced LTE technologies as 5G and said it could “confuse consumers, public officials and the investment community about what 5G really is,” in a prepared statement. “We’re calling on the broad wireless industry to commit to labeling something 5G only if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology to deliver new capabilities,” wrote Kyle Malady, CTO of Verizon.

“Our industry knows 5G will change the world. Let’s uphold that promise, while maintaining our integrity,” he added. “The success of the 5G technological revolution must be measured in truth and fact, not marketing hype.”