As AT&T and Verizon start turning on the latest upgrade to their respective 5G networks, the question for many is what devices will be able to connect to the new signal.
We already had Verizon’s initial list and now we have AT&T’s. Among the early devices are:
- Apple’s iPhone 12 line
- Apple’s iPhone 13 line
- Samsung’s Galaxy S21 line, including the S21 FE
- Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Galaxy Z Fold 3
- Samsung’s Galaxy A13 5G
- Google’s Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro
- Apple’s 5G iPads (iPad Pro and iPad Mini)
To work with C-band — which AT&T calls 5G Plus — the devices will need to have received and installed the latest software updates. AT&T’s latest network upgrade went live on Wednesday in parts of eight metro areas.
AT&T says it will expand this list to include other devices as software updates become available, though like Verizon it would not confirm exactly which devices would get updates or when.
It also will be launching new devices that support C-band “regularly throughout the year.”
Like Verizon, until now AT&T’s 5G network largely relied on a combination of 5G technologies known as millimeter-wave and low-band spectrum.
Millimeter-wave has excellent performance but significantly limited coverage that often is only available on certain street corners or in select parts of stadiums, airports or arenas.
Low-band offers strong coverage, but its performance is often equivalent to 4G LTE rather than better.
With the addition of C-band, AT&T will be able to add a 5G network that operates in the middle, bringing much faster performance than low-band 5G while offering significantly better coverage than millimeter-wave.
The carrier spent over $27 billion last year to purchase the wireless spectrum as it looks to bolster its network.
While Verizon has already started advertising its upcoming expansion, AT&T has been much quieter with its C-band plans.
Whereas its rival plans to cover 90 million people with the new signal this month, the piece of spectrum that AT&T purchased had the carrier aiming to cover 70 to 75 million people by the end of this year with the goal to expand its footprint to cover over 100 million people in “early” 2023.
Issues with the supply chain in 2021 have since impacted that plan, but Chris Sambar, AT&T’s executive vice president of technology operations, told CNET that “the build-out will be moving in earnest in the second half of this year” once it gets the equipment that it needs. “That’s when we can really start going gangbusters,” he said.
The carrier is now aiming to cover 200 million people with midband spectrum by the end of next year.
In addition to being in the right area and having the right device, those on AT&T looking to take advantage of the new network will need to make sure they have the right plan.
Last year AT&T expanded 5G access to include nearly all of its consumer unlimited plans, including older ones such Unlimited Choice, Unlimited Plus and Unlimited and More.