AT&T has broken promises, only offering the fastest 5G performance on new phones

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A new block of spectrum for 5G will soon be unlocked, but AT&T is now admitting it misrepresented which phones would be able to access it. Brand new phones like the iPhone 14 will be able to connect to the carrier’s shiny new mid-band 5G network, but older devices like the iPhone 13 and Galaxy S21 won’t get the previously promised mid-band updates.

AT&T spent the early stages of the 5G rollout at a disadvantage. T-Mobile was able to plug into Sprint’s mid-band holdings in the 2.5GHz range, giving it a leg-up on the competition. Meanwhile, Verizon is aggressively rolling out millimeter wave (mm wave) before branching out into low-band. AT&T, which relied on heavily fragmented 4G bands, had only a handful of frequencies suitable for 5G.

AT&T spent big in early 2022 to get this new mid-band spectrum, which operates around 3.45GHz. This block of airwaves was reserved for military use, but was released for commercial use and auctioned off by the FCC in January. AT&T cut $9.1 billion in licenses, far more than Dish ($7.3 billion) and T-Mobile ($2.9 billion). Verizon did not participate in the auction.

Last month, AT&T announced plans to roll out 3.45GHz simultaneously with its slightly higher C-band frequency. It noted that older 5G devices, such as the iPhone 12, iPhone 13, Galaxy S21, and Pixel 6 will be able to take advantage of the new spectrum after an update. it then sure If that is asked directly. Now, AT&T tells Cnet it was wrong twice.

A 5G millimeter wave cell site on a light pole in Minneapolis

AT&T’s updated list of mid-band compatibility is much narrower. To get the best out of AT&T’s upcoming 5G rollout, you’ll need to use an iPhone 14, Galaxy S22 (any model), Galaxy Z Flip4, Galaxy Z Fold4, or one of the carrier’s Nighthawk hotspots. Some older devices will have C-band access, but AT&T plans to use both together to bulk up its 5G network.

Mid-band frequencies are seen as the most desirable for 5G rollout because they travel farther than mmWave, which can’t even pass through a wall, as well as provide more bandwidth than long-range low-band signals. AT&T still sells numerous smartphones that won’t be able to access the 3.45GHz spectrum, and it’s unclear whether customers will be aware of this when signing up for 36-month payment plans on such devices. Our hopes aren’t high—let’s not forget that this is the carrier that rebranded 4G as “5GE.”

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