August 9, 2020

AT&T says its 5G network now covers over 205 million people

With its latest expansion, AT&T's 5G network now covers more than 205 million people, making it a nationwide network.

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  • AT&T says it now offers nationwide 5G coverage.
  • Approximately 205 million can get 5G service from the carrier.
  • It will include 5G access in its Unlimited Starter plans.

Following years of work, the US’ second-largest carrier says it now offers nationwide 5G coverage. If you take a look at AT&T’s coverage maps, you’ll note the company doesn’t have 5G service in every state and city across the US.

So what does nationwide coverage mean in this context? According to an AT&T spokesperson, the FCC defines ‘nationwide’ as covering more than 200 million people. As of today’s announcement, approximately 205 million people in 395 markets across the US can sign up for 5G service at AT&T. For context, T-Mobile was the first carrier to offer nationwide 5G coverage.

Some of the more notable markets where AT&T now offers 5G services include Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Houston and San Antonio, Texas.

AT&T only has mmWave coverage in about three dozen cities across the US. In most markets, the carrier’s 5G backend depends on sub-6GHz spectrum. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. While mmWave allows for the multi-gigabit speeds that much of the hype for 5G comes from, sub-6GHz is more reliable.

Read more: The best AT&T plans available today

Beginning August 7, the carrier will include 5G access in its Unlimited Starter plan, which starts at $35 per month. That means those with Unlimited Extra and Unlimited Elite plans — which start at $40 and $50 per month, respectively — also get access to 5G connectivity. If you’re currently a prepaid customer and don’t want to switch to a postpaid plan, your best bet is to wait until August 21. That’s when AT&T’s Cricket Wireless brand will offer 5G access.

Of course, you’ll need a compatible device to take advantage of the carrier’s 5G network. Some of the phones the 5G-capable phones AT&T sells include the Galaxy S20, LG V60 and LG Velvet. The Note 20 should also do the trick once it’s available sometime next month.

The announcement comes in the same week that AT&T scared some of its customers with a misleading email that made it seem like they would need to upgrade their current phone as soon as possible to continue getting service. The message didn’t make it immediately clear that those customers had until 2022 to replace their devices. AT&T said the omission was a mistake.