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AT&T now says only new devices will get 5G

5G is an absolute mess.

att logo with 5g symbol
Image: KnowTechie

AT&T has gone back on its earlier promises of bringing its mid-band 5G spectrum to older devices. That means even last year’s iPhone 13 won’t be able to access the carrier’s new speedy service (via CNET).

5G promised faster mobile data, better call quality, and more. What it has turned into is a mess. See, there are three versions of 5G: low-band, mid-band, and high-frequency millimeter-wave.

Millimeter wave is the fastest but only works over short distances. Low-band is slower but has more range. Mid-band is the compromise between the two.

5g bands illustrated
Image: CableFree

Most of AT&T’s frequency spectrum is in the mid-band range. That’s good, it means fast speeds and good coverage.

What’s not so good is how often AT&T has flip-flopped on its promises of device support. In January, the carrier said only flagship devices from 2022 and newer would work with the new mid-band range. Then in August, they said more devices would qualify.

Now it’s September, and the promise has been walked back. Only flagships from 2022 will get support for the 3.45GHz mid-band 5G.

samsung galaxy z flip 4 bespoke editions
Image: Samsung

The list of flagships includes the Apple iPhone 14 range. It also includes the Samsung Galaxy S22 range, the Galaxy Z Flip 4, and the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Two hotspots from Netgear also make the cut, the Nighthawk M6 and the Nighthawk M6 Pro.

That’s it. That doesn’t mean other devices can’t access AT&T’s 5G network, however. It just means they’re going to have a limited amount of coverage.

It gets worse. AT&T has a practice of locking users into 36-month contracts by covering their device costs. That means many customers will be on 5G capable phones but unable to access significant chunks of AT&T’s network.

Maybe AT&T is hoping this will spur device upgrades. Our bet is that it’ll spur switching to another carrier, like T-Mobile, which has the best 5G network right now.

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