Sprint, the U.S. fourth largest wireless carrier subject for a merger with rival T-mobile next year, has on Tuesday disclosed that it's working with LG Electronics to introduce the first U.S. 5G smartphone in the first half of 2019.
A statement by Sprint director of product portfolio John Tudhope confirms that the companies are "far enough along in the development" and would be surprised if anyone beat them to first launch a 5G-compatible device. However, neither Sprint nor LG provided more information such as the 5G Smartphone price, exact release date, and specs.
Sprint is making efforts to persuade antitrust regulators for the approval of its $26 billion merger deal with bigger competitor T-Mobile, which both companies alleged will help them to quickly build the next-generation wireless network. Delivering a more responsive and far faster network, 5G network when launched is expected to supercharge other technologies such as autonomous driving, telemedicine, and VR streaming.
"Today's announcement brings us one step closer to putting a beautifully designed, advanced 5G smartphone in our customers' hands," said Sprint chief technology officer, John Saw.
The 5G smartphone will be compatible with only Sprint's planned 5G network
Taking up the prospects of 5G is Sprint's major interest which includes the opportunity to brag rights over network superiority.
Tudhope in an interview said that the company is customizing the 5G LG phone to only work with its planned 5G network and other existing 4G network. Sprint is working to ensure the 5G coverage set for launch delivers a better experience while dismissing concerns that it may end up draining phone batteries faster.
In an effort to lure more customers using media content, Sprint last month introduced new unlimited wireless plans bundled with music streaming service Tidal and video streaming platform Hulu. Downloading video contents faster on smartphones is one of the major benefits of the 5G network and Sprint will continue to use content as a way of enlivening the 5G network, said Tudhope.
With all proposed plans in shape, Sprint would command a new level in the U.S. market for cell phone service starting from next year. The company is sitting as the fourth-largest wireless carrier based on the number of customers. It previously announced plans of first launching its 5G network in 9 cities: Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, New York City, Phoenix, Kansas City, and Washington, D.C in 2019.
"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 the CEO of LG Electronics North America, William Cho.
We won't be surprised if Sprint and LG 5G smartphone ends up not being the first US 5G smartphone in the US. Verizon has proposed releasing a 5G "Moto Mod" next year, a model that should give its Motorola Moto Z3 the capabilities to access the next-generation network. Meanwhile, AT&T has disclosed plans to launch a 5G hotspot this year.