5G Will Spur Return to Carrier Locks

5G Will Spur Return to Carrier Locks
Smartphones may only be fully compatible with a single carrier's 5G network.

(CCM) — Most 5G smartphones will effectively be locked to specific mobile carriers when 5G networks are rolled out across the U.S. next year, meaning users will not be able to switch networks without buying a new handset.

But the reason for this lack of network portability is a technical one rather than a business one, according to Gordon Mansfield, AT&T's vice president of radio networks and device design. The root cause is the fact that different carriers' 5G networks use different radio frequencies.

"It’s not because there isn’t a desire and we don’t want to have cross-compatibility," Mansfield explained in a Digital Trends report. "It’s just that nobody has figured out how to cram the 28 GHz 5G that Verizon and T-Mobile are using, and AT&T’s 39 GHz 5G, into one box yet. And while T-Mobile and Verizon are using similar 28 GHz bands, T-Mobile is also putting 5G on the 600 MHz band, which Verizon is not."

The good news is that the technical hurdle will likely be overcome very quickly, Mansfield added. Without giving a timeframe, he suggested that in the near future it will be possible for smartphone manufacturers to build small multi-band devices relatively easily.

AT&T is planning to launch its 5G network in select U.S. cities before the end of 2018.

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