Wireless companies are racing to get commercial 5G service out to customers before the calendar hits 2019, which likely means the first rollout won’t quite resemble the eventual visions.
Standards are still being written, but carriers are working to be the first to implement service using one element of those standards. Most work is coming after December’s wrap-up of key elements of 5G new radio standards from 3GPP, the international standards body.
Most launches will revolve around fixed wireless service that beams Internet into homes through the air rather than via cable, whereas what comes at first will be a far cry from what will be possible in a few years.
The technology will call for millions of new antennas yet to be installed.
Verizon (NYSE:VZ) is looking at a residential 5G launch in 3-5 markets in the second half, starting with Sacramento, Calif.
Sprint (NYSE:S) is looking toward 2019 for its 5G network. And T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS) says it will “beat the duopoly” to “real” mobile 5G.
AT&T (NYSE:T) meanwhile has pledged mobile 5G service coming in 2018.
Target markets for AT&T 2018 and 2019 rollout
While AT&T will begin rolling out 5G to customers in late 2018, we wanted to provide a list of the first markets that will see 5G available for customers. The target markets include:
- Atlanta, GA
- Austin, TX
- Boston, MA
- Bridgeport, CT
- Buffalo, NY
- Chicago, IL
- Fresno, CA
- Greenville, SA
- Hartford, CT
- Houston, TX
- Indianapolis, IN
- Los Angeles, CA
- Louisville, KY
- Memphis, TN
- Nashville, TN
- New Orleans, LA
- Oklahoma City, OK
- Pittsburgh, PA
- San Antonio, TX
- Tusla, OK
- Sacramento, CA
About a dozen on this list should see 5G this year. It is important to note that while these are the first markets 5G will be available in, the plan is for AT&T to expand the technology widely through 2020. At the same time, the company will strengthen and improve its LTE and LTE-M networks for existing customers outside these key areas. This will benefit battery life, improve coverage underground and inside buildings, and help support the Internet of Things. We view 5G as well as improved existing technology as key to wireless revenues moving forward for the industry.
It is difficult to estimate the impact on revenues that 5G and improved networks will have. We have to factor in attraction of new customers, pricing, the reality that consumer wireless revenues are on the decline thanks to heavy discounting to attract customers, as well as many other components. Therefore, despite 5G becoming a reality, we do not think there will be a material impact on 2018 revenues and earnings for AT&T.
We currently are estimating sales and earnings independent of a Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) purchase. Factoring in the outlook from the company during earnings, the trajectory of revenues, video subscriber patterns and wireless competition, we are projecting revenues that could decline, and are eyeing $158.5 to $165.0 billion. In either case this is very low-single digit movement versus last year.
As for 2018 on the bottom line, we expect the per share number to improve if revenues are flat, thanks to repurchase activity and tax reform. We are expecting earnings in the range of $3.39-3.59. In addition, we believe the dividend will continue to be comfortably paid, and will closely monitor the numbers stemming from 5G sales in the latter half of the year.