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Inside Sprint’s 5G Test for Commercial Launch in 2019

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Jan. 15 2019, Updated 8:10 a.m. ET

Sprint’s launch of 5G smartphones

On January 10, telecom carrier Sprint (S) announced that it had completed the world’s first 5G data transmission on a commercial network. Sprint has teamed up with Nokia (NOK) and Qualcomm (QCOM) on its network to reach the milestone. With this achievement, Sprint is now set to commercially launch its first 5G smartphones in the US and the first mobile 5G experience in nine cities in the first half of 2019.

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Field test

Sprint’s field test was based on the newly accepted industry standard for 5G technology, which relies on the 5G NR (new radio) guidelines specified by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (or 3GPP). The combination of Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum, Nokia’s dual-mode AirScale Massive MIMO radio, and a smartphone test device powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem has led to a smooth transition of connectivity between Sprint’s 4G LTE Advanced and 5G network.

Race to launch 5G

Sprint’s 5G service aims to meet customers’ demand for unlimited data and high-bandwidth applications, and would thus bring more customers to the network provider. Sprint has also been focusing on unlimited phone plans to attract more customers. The Kansas-based company lost 34,000 postpaid phone customers in the second quarter of fiscal 2018, which ended on September 30. In comparison, Sprint’s telecom rivals Verizon (VZ), AT&T (T), and T-Mobile gained 295,000, 69,000, and 774,000 customers, respectively, in the quarter ending September 30, 2018.

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