Sprint said it will offer a 5G mobile smart hub, in the first half of 2019 – the second product the company has announced for operation with the 5G network it expects to launch in nine cities in the first half of the year. The Sprint 5G mobile hub will be manufactured by HTC using components from Qualcomm.

Sprint previously announced that it would have the first mobile 5G smartphone in the U.S., which is also expected to be available in the first half of 2019. The company did not immediately reply to an inquiry from Telecompetitor asking for additional information, but the hub likely is a hotspot that will use Wi-Fi between the hub and a current-generation smartphone or other device, with 5G providing the connection between the hub and the Sprint network.

This approach is cumbersome in comparison with using a smartphone that has embedded 5G capability. The advantage of the hotspot approach, however, is that it allows customers to use existing smartphones with the 5G network, as long as the phones have Wi-Fi capability, which virtually all of them do.

Sprint 5G Hub
As all major U.S. carriers gear up to launch 5G, availability of 5G-capable smartphones has been one of the biggest challenges, as the development of network gear has outpaced smartphone development.

AT&T, for example, expects to be the first carrier to launch mobile 5G service in the U.S., which it has said it will do before the end of 2018. But initially, the only device that will operate on that network will be a Wi-Fi hotspot that apparently will be similar to the one Sprint announced today.

The name, feature specifications and exact availability date of the Sprint 5G hub will be shared at a later date, according to a press release announcing the hub today.

The 5G smartphone that Sprint previously announced will come from LG which, like HTC, is not one of the major players in today’s smartphone market, which is currently dominated by Apple and Samsung.

Whether those companies will retain market domination as 5G becomes more prevalent remains to be seen, however. At least one research firm has suggested there could be a major market share shake-up as 5G takes root.

The nine cities in which Sprint plans to launch 5G service in the first half of 2019 are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.

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