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Sprint promises H1 2019 5G device launch, but do you actually want it?

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Sprint has announced a new partnership with LG to deliver its first 5G-compatible smartphone to US customers in the first half of 2019.

The launch date is largely what was expected by industry commentators, though Sprint attempting to grab the 5G PR points in this stage of the race. While all four of the US telcos have been scrapping for the right to claim the ‘first’ 5G network launch, targeting the end of this year, it actually means very little without the devices. This partnership is another incremental step towards the consumers dream of buffer-free cat videos. The first to deliver that dream with a device could see a notable uplift in subs.

“Sprint is moving fast on the road to 5G and we are thrilled to announce the first 5G smartphone with the innovative team at LG,” said Sprint CTO John Shaw. “LG has done tremendous work developing technical designs that enable us to be among the first movers in mobile 5G.

“Today’s announcement brings us one step closer to putting a beautifully-designed advanced 5G smartphone in our customer’s hands. And we’re excited to revolutionize the mobile industry as we dramatically improve the way Sprint customers work, play and stay connected.”

“LG has been working side-by-side with Sprint for nearly 20 years, and we are looking forward to expanding this partnership with 5G,” said William Cho, LG Electronics North America CEO. “Building on LG’s legacy of innovation, our teams are enthusiastic about partnering with Sprint’s 5G experts to bring next-generation mobile to market in the U.S., while continuing to evolve LG’s best-in-class design elements for Sprint customers.”

Motorola was the first to stroke the 5G dragon earlier this month, announcing the new moto z3 and 5G moto mod devices which will be available on Verizon’s 5G network next year, though LG is not far behind. With manufacturers looking to partner specific networks with the initial launch, you have to wonder whether the premium manufacturers are having the same conversation. Having exclusive access to the first Samsung or Apple 5G device would certainly be a major boost for a telco, irrelevant as to whether it is for the briefest moment.

The first markets to live the Sprint 5G dream will be Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, with the Massive MIMO technology at the heart of the rollout. Once the on-switch has been flicked, Sprint claims users will be able to experience 10x faster speeds from day one.

For years, 5G has been an exciting conversation, though there has been little for the consumer to get excited about. Announcing devices makes the technology real, a concept which consumers will actually be able to visualise. Right now the PR machine is in second gear, but the euphoria will soon start to escalate as soon as design concepts and features are inevitably leaked by an ‘unknown source’.

AT&T and T-Mobile US are yet to unveil their plans, but we suspect it won’t be long. With the billions of dollars and millions of man-hours being spent on 5G infrastructure development and deployment, the telcos will want to stoke the excitement and on-board customers as soon as possible.

This is certainly a positive step forward, but an interesting question remains; do you actually want to have one of the first available 5G devices?

There will of course be excitement and a race for tech-enthusiasts to get their hands on the device, but will it be any good? One thing you can guarantee is the devices will be expensive, perhaps explaining the dip in smartphone shipments across this year, but first-to-market products are usually a shadow of the updated versions hitting the shelves a couple of months later.

The upgraded features will of course be useful, and there will certainly be bragging rights down the pub (or more likely on the message boards of Reddit), though it is Motorola and LG who are launching first. These are perfectly good devices, but if you ask those who consider themselves ‘tech experts’, they do not compare to the likes of Samsung and Apple.

The risk here is the race. Just as the telcos are racing to the first network launch, the handset manufacturers are racing towards the first product launch. There is a risk mistakes will be made and lessons learned, it will be a first after all. Maybe it will be worth just soaking in the buzz over the first couple of months, waiting for the launches a couple of months down the line.

  • 2020 Vision Executive Summit

  • LTE Advanced Pro and Gigabit LTE: The Path to 5G

  • TechXLR8

  • The BIG Communications Event

  • 5G North America

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