Sprint has launched its mobile 5G service in four cities — but unlike the short-range millimeter wave networks AT&T and Verizon have already turned on, this is the nation's first taste of 5G on mid-band spectrum in its coveted 2.5GHz band. All told, it covers more than 1,100 square miles and a population of nearly 3.6 million people.

The carrier says that it has deployed its Ericsson dual-mode 5G/LTE Advanced radios at its existing cell sites and has highlighted certain focus areas in each of its first four metro areas:

  • In Atlanta, 5G is available from downtown up to Dunwoody, an approximately 17-mile stretch.
  • In Dallas-Fort Worth, it's available on a 40-mile run from North Dallas through Irving and Arlington to downtown Fort Worth.
  • In Houston, 5G spans 13 miles from downtown off to Beltway 8 in Memorial City.
  • The network is also live from Kansas City, Missouri, through to Sprint headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas, a 12-mile field.

The company expects to bring 5G onto its second wave of cities — Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, and Washington — in the next several weeks, adding another 1,080 square miles to the network.

That kind of real estate is something the competition doesn't have access to right now: AT&T and Verizon don't have spectrum holdings below 6GHz that can either be built upon right now or quickly be converted from older 3G and 4G technology, leaving them with very speedy millimeter wave spectrum that can barely cover a city block; at the same time, T-Mobile, which has proposed to merge with Sprint, hopes to run 5G on its wide-reaching, but lower-speed 600MHz band next year.

Sprint's humongous 100MHz block of 2.5GHz airwaves is a major prize for T-Mobile. But Department of Justice officials reviewing the merger reportedly want the pair to surrender spectrum and form a "new" fourth carrier to maintain competition in the wireless market and neither side want to give up anything. This specific cache may be important to watch going forward.

Customers will need to subscribe to the $80 a month Unlimited Premium plan to receive 5G service — it includes the usual unlimited talk, text, and data, capacity for 1080p video streaming, 100GB of mobile hotspot every month, and free subscriptions to Hulu, Amazon Prime, Twitch Prime, as well as Tidal. Sprint has also partnered with Hatch to give 5G customers 90 days of free access to a library of over 100 games that can be streamed down to their phones. After that, Hatch will cost $7.99 a month.

The LG V50 ThinQ 5G and the HTC 5G Hub, which have been on pre-order for the past couple of weeks, will go on sale tomorrow. Sprint is also due to sell the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G sometime this summer.