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AT&T's real 5G network is live in 10 cities, coming to many more in 2020

AT&T's real 5G network is live in 10 cities, coming to many more in 2020
AT&T vaguely promised a few weeks ago that its true 5G mobile network would launch at long last for "tens of millions of people" by the end of the year, and with just a couple of weeks to spare, the nation's second-largest wireless service provider is delivering on that pledge.

While the carrier initially named a measly five markets as the first group scheduled to get low-band 5G coverage in 2019, the list has been expanded to include 10 cities where you can now improve your download speeds similarly to what T-Mobile subscribers are able to do "nationwide" since last Friday.

AT&T's 5G signal should obviously be stronger than the operator's 4G LTE and 5GE (aka LTE Advanced) technology, but there's actually also something called 5G+ in the pipeline. Currently available for businesses only, this uses mmWave spectrum, going directly up against the 5G network Verizon insists it is "building the right way." This technology takes mobile download speeds to a whole new level, but at least for the foreseeable future, both AT&T and T-Mobile consider "5G+" unfeasible for wide-scale consumer rollouts.

Instead, AT&T is allowing "businesses and collaborators" to explore "new ways to unlock the significant performance capabilities of 5G+" in high-traffic areas and places like arenas and campuses across 23 cities right now, planning however to eventually bring this ultra-high-speed service to everyday customers as well.

Where can you get 5G speeds on AT&T today?

While the highly contentious 5G Evolution (read fake 5G) service is live for the "majority of all Americans", only people in these 10 major markets are currently allowed to connect to a "true" 5G network, billed as significantly "faster, smarter, and more responsive" than the wireless industry's previous gold standard:

  • Birmingham, Alabama
  • Los Angeles, California
  • San Diego, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • San Jose, California
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Rochester, New York
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Up next, AT&T plans to "rapidly expand" the availability of its low-band 5G technology towards the eventual goal of offering "nationwide" coverage at some point in the first half of 2020. Even though we don't have any other specific rollout dates, the carrier has named a second batch of markets set to join the aforementioned group soon, including the following:

  • Bridgeport, Connecticut
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Buffalo, New York
  • New York City

What do you need to access AT&T's 5G network right now?

Two things, mainly. First, a 5G-capable smartphone. If you think choosing one will be difficult, you might want to think again, as AT&T sells a single such handset for the masses. Namely, Samsung's Galaxy Note 10+ 5G, which was recently expanded to T-Mobile as well after a fairly long period of Verizon exclusivity

Powered by a Snapdragon 855 SoC paired with a standalone Snapdragon X55 modem, the 6.8-inch beast seems to run Android 10 out the box on the software side of things for AT&T customers too. Up for pre-order for more than a couple of weeks now, the 5G-enabled powerhouse is now available in physical stores nationwide, as well as online for rapid shipping at a whopping $1,299.99 and up.

Bumping up the 256 gigs of internal storage space to twice that amount will set you back an additional 100 bucks, but for what it's worth, you can save $500 with a new line of service or up to $950 if you also have a number to port in and an eligible device to trade in. Oh, and the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G also includes wireless Galaxy Buds at no extra cost with no strings attached.

The other thing you'll need is a service plan with 5G access included. This time, you do get to choose between an Unlimited Extra and Unlimited Elite option, fetching as little as $75 and $85 a month respectively for a single line or a grand total of $160 and $200 respectively for a family account with four members. There's no 5G surcharge (yet), and the big advantages of going with the pricier plan are HD streaming capabilities, a bigger mobile hotspot allotment per line (30 vs 15GB), HBO access, and more "premium" data (100 vs 50GB).

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