LIVE FROM QUALCOMM SNAPDRAGON TECH SUMMIT 2018 – MAUI, HAWAII: AT&T revealed it is already working on launching a second 5G smartphone with Samsung which will be compatible with sub-6GHz airwaves the operator plans to incorporate into its next generation network in 2019.

Gordon Mansfield, AT&T’s VP of converged access and device technology, told journalists the operator opted to lead with mmWave in its mobile 5G launch because no modems compatible with FDD technology in the sub-6Hz bands would be available in time for its planned launch in early 2019.

However, the operator revealed it is working with Samsung to release a smartphone in H2 2019 compatible with both mmWave and sub-6GHz spectrum. The device will come in addition to a mmWave-only Samsung model AT&T plans to deploy in the first half of the year.

Network plans are taking shape accordingly.

Mansfield noted AT&T’s 3G traffic is increasingly moving to LTE, clearing the way for AT&T to reuse its legacy 850MHz and 1900MHz spectrum for 5G (though Mansfield declined to say which would be the first to be recycled). The operator is also eyeing the shared 3.5GHz band for 5G.

The addition of lower-band spectrum to its mmWave network will allow AT&T to expand beyond its initial 12 launch cities to offer “pretty broad 5G coverage by the end of 2019”, he added.

Mansfield insisted AT&T remains on track with its mmWave launch, noting radios are already being deployed. The operator is also working with partners to optimise both network and handset software in the final weeks before launch, he said.