The age of 5G smartphone connections is finally here. On Monday, T-Mobile announced that it officially activated its nationwide 5G network, which will provide blanket coverage to more than 200 million users.

However, consumers can’t start browsing with those blazing fast speeds just yet. The first two 5G-enabled smartphones from Samsung and OnePlus that work with the carrier won’t debut until December 6. Once they debut, the network will be fully operational. The launch cements T-Mobile’s title as the only major carrier to have widespread 5G coverage in America.

5G at Last

The buzz around 5G technology has been building for years. Networks built with the next-generation hardware and protocols will deliver fast speeds and less latency than current 4G coverage maps.

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T-Mobile is launching its 5G network with a bit of caution, however. The nationwide rollout uses the 600MHz spectrum of service. While this is slower than what 5G will eventually be, it is still faster than current LTE coverage. It accomplishes the feat by “bundling” service airways and delivering them together for faster speeds.

As of now, the telecommunications company hasn’t cited specific speeds for the network. A spokesperson did say, “In some places, 600 MHz 5G will be a lot faster than LTE. In others, customers won’t see as much difference.”

Every major cell service carrier in the United States has been racing to achieve the goal that T-Mobile has now accomplished. Several, including Verizon, have deployed local 5G coverage “hotspots” to test the technology. However, these have mostly appeared in major urban areas like New York City and around large sports venues. T-Mobile’s coverage map crushes the competition by blanketing a significant portion of the country with 5G.

Image: T-Mobile

Next-Gen Ready Hardware

Those from younger generations might not remember the transition to 4G LTE technology that occurred in the late 2000s and early 2010s. At that time, smartphones weren’t even as popular as they are today. Still, that rollout was slow and arduous as consumers were forced to upgrade their devices to meet new hardware standards.

There will be a similar situation with the rollout of 5G tech. Current smartphones, even flagship models, don’t support the next-gen network. Though some special-edition phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, do support it, they cost a lot more. Considering that 5G coverage is still in its infancy, it is difficult to convince consumers to spend more without getting a lot in return.

T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G deployment will be the spark to start changing that. Friday marks the launch of the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G as well as the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G. The latter costs $1,300 while the OnePlus model sells for $900. It’s worth noting that these phones will get an even faster speed boost once (if) the T-Mobile-Sprint merger goes through.

Regardless, all of the company’s service plans will include 5G coverage where it is available. For now, consumers hoping to be at the forefront of next-gen innovation can begin their foray into 5G on December 6.

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