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AT&T Hits the 'On' Switch on 5G in 10 U.S. Cities

AT&T officially hits the  'on' switch on its 5G network in the U.S., rolling it out in 10 cities including Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as Pittsburgh and Milwaukee - albeit with a catch.

AT&T  (T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report officially hit the ‘on’ switch on its highly anticipated 5G high-speed network on Friday, rolling out the service in 10 U.S. markets including some of the biggest cities in California, albeit with a catch: Users will have to upgrade to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ to utilize the new network.

AT&T switched on its 5G service in four major California cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose as it looks to take pole position against rivals Verizon Communications  (VZ) - Get Verizon Communications Inc. Report and T-Mobile  (TMUS) - Get T-Mobile US Inc. Report in rolling out the next-generation mobile communications network.

It also flipped the switch for customers in Birmingham, Alabama; Indianapolis; Milwaukee, Providence, Rhode Island; Pittsburgh; and Rochester, New York.

The catch, however, is that consumers must have the latest Samsung smartphone to utilize the higher-speed service. 5G millimeter wave, as it’s called, is currently the fastest for on-the-move internet connections. However, the reach is short, requiring more cell towers.

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AT&T is selling the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ for as little as $350 to consumers who meet certain qualifications and trade in an old device.

To be sure, 5G is still unavailable in most of the country, and the current version doesn’t offer the kinds of gigabit-plus speeds that carriers are looking to eventually achieve. The initial rollout uses low-band spectrum, delivering performance comparable to current networks.

Shares of AT&T were little changed at $38.25 in morning trading on Friday. Verizon shares were also little changed at $61.40, while shares of T-Mobile traded at $74.88.