AT&T announced that starting today, more than 74 percent of Puerto Rico’s municipalities will have access to 5G technology, at a time when network use is on the rise due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
José Juan Dávila, vice president and general manager of AT&T Mobile for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, said that the 5G service is now available in seven cellular market areas (CMAs): San Juan, with 30 municipalities; Aibonito, seven municipalities; Arecibo, six municipalities; Mayagüez, five municipalities; Ponce, five municipalities; Aguadilla, four municipalities, and the municipality of Rincón. These account for 58 of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities, or roughly 74.4 percent.
According to Dávila, the service will be extended to the remaining 18 municipalities in the main island throughout July 2020, distributed among three CMAs, while the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra are projected to have 5G before the year ends.
“5G doesn’t only mean more downlink or uplink speed; it is also more network capacity and more network speed. That is, not only is the network faster… it can also manage more devices and apps from clients at the same time and, certainly, cover thousands, millions of devices at high speed,” he told THE WEEKLY JOURNAL.
In order to benefit from this technology, which had been under development since 2019, AT&T clients must live in one of the covered areas and have a device that is compatible with 5G. Customers on AT&T Unlimited Extra and AT&T Unlimited Elite plans receive access to the 5G network at no additional charge. Those subscribed to the Unlimited Elite plan also receive HBO Max included. 5G is also available to business customers on select plans.
Clients in Puerto Rico who want to take advantage of 5G at AT&T will have a new option of more accessible equipment with the Samsung Galaxy A71 5G, which can be reserved now at att.com/GalaxyA715G and will be available in stores from July 10. AT&T customers can get it for $10 a month when they add a new line with an eligible unlimited rate plan and purchase it on an installment plan. For a limited time, customers who purchase this equipment will receive a free $100 Visa gift card.
Other smartphones that are 5G-compatible are the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Note10 + 5G, S20, S20 + 5G and the S20 Ultra, and the LG V60 ThinQ 5G. NETGEAR Nighthawk® 5G, a hotspot device, is currently available for commercial clients.
THE WEEKLY JOURNAL asked if there are iPhone options available, but Dávila explained that Apple hasn’t yet released a smartphone that is compatible with 5G, although their next device—to be announced—is expected to keep up with this new technological development.
“The market is waiting for iPhone to launch their 5G device. When will they launch it? Well, only they know. In the meantime, we have the Samsung [smartphones],” he said.
Meanwhile, Marketing Director Melissa Burgos opined that AT&T chose an “ideal” time for this launch, considering that now there are several devices that clients can choose from, while maintaining the lead as Puerto Rico’s fastest wireless network, according to Ookla's Speedtest® data median download speeds for Q1 2020.
Dávila highlighted the importance of having a fast, reliable network during the pandemic, which by March 2020 had already increased smartphone use by 40 percent in the United States and 70 percent worldwide, according to Statista.
“Because of COVID-19, we have many people doing virtual conferences, taking classes online, streaming content… This is what clients need and this technology will help them do everything they are passionate about,” the vice president affirmed.