Technology

Sprint announces when 5G will come to Kansas City. Here’s what you need to know

New Sprint 5G Experience demonstrates capabilities of the next-gen technology

Sprint opens a new Sprint 5G Experience space at its Overland Park headquarters Mar. 13, 2019, to educate consumers about 5G wireless technology which is expected to launch in Kansas City in May.
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Sprint opens a new Sprint 5G Experience space at its Overland Park headquarters Mar. 13, 2019, to educate consumers about 5G wireless technology which is expected to launch in Kansas City in May.

Kansas City is just three months away from getting Sprint 5G, according to an announcement Monday from CEO Michel Combes at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Like previous rollouts of new service, the coverage will be offered in a core area and then expand over time.

Sprint spokesman Dave Tovar said 5G will initially cover about 110 square miles, including the Sprint Campus in Overland Park and all of downtown Kansas City. The area takes in about 340,000 potential users, he said.

Once all nine of its first markets launch, Tovar said 5G will cover about 1,000 square miles.

Along with Kansas City, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas will see 5G in May. Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix and Washington D.C. are scheduled for 5G by the end of June.

To access the faster network, customers will need to buy one of two first 5G phones, or a new 5G hotspot. Tovar said the LG V50 ThinQ 5G phone and the HTC 5G Hub hotspot will become available when the service itself launches. A Samsung Galaxy S10 5G phone will be available for Sprint customers this summer, Tovar said.

Sprint and T-Mobile also say the end of June will bring federal approval of their $26 billion merger, which they said will allow the construction and launch of a world-leading 5G service that neither would be able to do alone.

The service will make online gaming more realistic thanks to faster reaction times between when the gamer pushes a button and the game responds — “virtually instantaneously,” Tovar said. He said 5G speeds and coverage will make existing mobile experiences more reliable and consistent.

The 5G technology will also allow for new applications — such as self-driving cars and telemedicine — as all five national wireless carriers make the service available (Verizon made a 5G announcement, too).

Sprint has sued rival AT&T claiming its 5G Evolution offering misleads consumers because it is not the same as true 5G.

Bill Ho, an industry analyst at 556 Ventures LLC, said the Sprint 5G hotspot’s ability to handle traffic from 20 devices at once will have immediate uses in business. Ho said it also offers consumers the potential of a fixed wireless experience at home, streaming video services and the like.

One caveat, Ho said, will be the data limitations on unlimited packages, the point at which a carrier throttles a customer’s data speeds after consuming a maximum number of gigabytes.

“Will Sprint have new fine print for that service?” Ho asked of the coming 5G launch.

Sprint’s nine-market roll out offers the company an early advantage over other carriers, Roger Entner of Recon Analytics said. He expects Sprint’s 5G service to cover a larger geographic area than its rivals’ initial coverage because the wireless airwaves Sprint is using already are in place.

The company’s window for making good on that lead will be short-lived.

“It’s an advantage, but it’s an advantage that will quickly evaporate,” Entner said.

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Mark Davis writes about business for The Kansas City Star with attention to Sprint, investing, the economy and scams. He has been a winner and finalist in national competitions held by the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing.

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