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Data Sheet—Are the First Customers of 5G the Winners or Losers?

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If you live in the northeast or the midwest and crave faster wireless Internet, you may be in for a bit of a wait. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have started to roll out their super-fast fifth generation, or 5G, wireless services and the initial regions have a decidedly western and southern flavor.

Verizon’s first four markets for its home 5G service, which opened in October, are Sacramento, Houston, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis. On Tuesday, AT&T announced its even more ambitious mobile 5G service, usable via a $500 Netgear portable Wi-Fi hotspot. The first 12 cities getting service include Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, and Jacksonville. A second wave from AT&T coming in the first half of 2019 covers some big western cities including L.A., Las Vegas, and San Francisco.

In all, there’s a single midwestern city of Indianapolis—but nothing for New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Philadelphia, and so on. (Full disclosure: as you may know, I’m based in Boston.)

Maybe T-Mobile will be a savior for the neglected regions. The number three carrier says its 5G network will start in six of the 10 largest cities, but has named only Los Angeles and New York, so far. So there’s that.

Does it have to do with 5G signals in cold weather? Let’s not start that conspiracy theory. But the regional hold up may be business related or perhaps due to infrastructure. The south and west have been growing faster than other parts of the country (Amazon and Google’s recent headquarters decisions not withstanding). Also land is cheaper and more plentiful there, perhaps making it easier and less costly to build out the networks needed to offer 5G.

On the other hand, customers in the neglected regions may be lucky. The earliest 5G services and devices look a little less than compelling. At least for Verizon and AT&T, the first services rely on high frequency, so-called millimeter wave airwaves, like 28 GHz. Signals in those bands carry lots of data but don’t travel far or penetrate obstacles like trees, meaning coverage will be spotty for a while. Analysts are also raising concerns about the weight and battery life of early 5G phones. And rumor has it there won’t be a 5G iPhone until at least 2020. So to my fellow northeasterners I say: Let’s let everyone else work out the kinks. We’ll be ready for 5G when 5G is ready for us. #sourgrapes.

Update: I missed Sprint’s recent announcement of a 5G service using a “mobile smart hub” coming in the first half of 2019 to nine cities, including Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. No pricing yet from the fourth-largest carrier.

Aaron Pressman


No stone left unturned. Attacks on the 2016 election via Russian hacking were far more expansive than previously known, according to two new reports using data collected by the Senate Intelligence Committee. There will be numerous stories to come, no doubt, but to start, the reports showed that the Russians used every social network they could find, including Instagram, Medium, and Pinterest. They targeted black voters specifically. Oh, and tech companies did the “bare minimum” to cooperate with investigators.

Links to PDF full versions of the full reports:

The IRA, Social Media and Political Polarization in the United States, 2012-2018

The Tactics & Tropes of the Internet Research Agency

Freeze frame. Amid other controversial topics, employee complaints have prompted Google to shut down a data collection system it was using to develop a censored search engine for China, The Intercept reports. Google didn’t respond for comment in the article.

Cash clicks. Free money from one of the world’s richest companies? Nice work if you can get it. Apple started an offer this week to add 10% to the value of funds that customers stash online in their iTunes store accounts, maxing out at $20 (for a $200 deposit). But hurry—the offer, available here, ends on Thursday.

Give me what I want. Speaking of Apple, and considering a much longer time frame than this coming Thursday, the company’s plans for making a car are back in the news. Fans of a hoped for Apple auto got a boost on Monday after reports emerged that the company has hired former Tesla senior designer Andrew Kim for an unknown role. No comment from Cupertino on the hire. Meanwhile Tesla CEO Elon Musk plans to raise $500 million of private capital for his other dream-fulfilling startup, SpaceX, in a deal that values the rocket launching company at over $30 billion. The money will help fund Musk’s Internet service from space called Starlink.

Skyward bound. On Wall Street, Oracle said its fiscal second quarter revenue totaled $9.6 billion, the same as a year ago and better than mostly pessimistic analysts were expecting. Adjusted earnings per share rose 16% (thank you, stock buybacks) to 80 cents, also better than analysts forecast. Oracle shares, previously down 2% in 2018, jumped 6% in premarket trading on Tuesday.

Little hurdle hurdled. It’s not clear sailing yet, but T-Mobile‘s merger with rival Sprint passed one hurdle, gaining national security clearance from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or CFIUS. Tougher competition reviews by the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice remain ongoing. Still, as CEO John Legere triumphantly tweeted: “We’re a step closer to creating a supercharged disruptor that will bring benefits to the US.”


DocuSign founder Tom Gonser and current chairman Keith Krach will be leaving the company’s board in the next few weeks. Cynthia Gaylor, CFO of Pivotal Software, is joining the board and current member Maggie Wildrotter takes over as chair…San Diego cybersecurity firm AttackIQ hired Brett Galloway as CEO. The new boss co-founded Mist Systems and was the CEO of Airespace…Voyager Capital added entrepreneur and investor Meredith Powell as its first partner dedicated to Canadian ventures.



All the misbehaving and bad news from tech giants this year prompted Motherboard writer Daniel Oberhaus to attempt a difficult month-long stunt. Oberhaus tried to arrange his life and his tech gear to avoid using any product or service from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. He used a home built PC running Linux, deleted his Facebook profile, and shopped mostly offline. Purging Google usage was the trickiest, especially Google Docs, he reports:

I opted to try Piratepad, a fork of Etherpad that was created by the Swedish Pirate Party. Although I loved the spirit of Piratepad, its barebones format made editing articles difficult because it was harder to leave comments and make suggestions on articles. Instead, you had to make changes directly in the document.

Moreover, whenever I tried to copy an article from Piratepad into VICE’s content management system, the format was totally wonky and reformatting the article added a substantial amount of time to the publishing process.

The solution my editors and I eventually landed on was far from ideal. I would write an article locally using LibreOffice Writer (the Linux equivalent of Word), send the document in Slack to my editors, who would upload it to Google Drive on their own computers, edit it, re-download it as an ODT file—the file format for text documents in LibreOffice—then send it back to me on Slack for rewrites. Despite how wildly inefficient this was, it allowed for all the editing amenities found in Google Docs without messing with the article’s format. Although this worked well enough for the month, it’s hard to imagine that this would be sustainable long term. As far as I could tell, when it comes to collaborative editing software there’s still no good replacement for Google Docs.


Shipwrecked and Stranded—Then Saved by an iPhone By Chris Morris

The 8 Political Battles Tech Companies Will Fight in 2019 By Bradley Tusk

Why Smart Wearables Will Be One of the Tech Industry’s Few Bright Spots By Aaron Pressman

California Abandons Its Plan to Tax Text Messages Following FCC Ruling By Kevin Kelleher

Russia Even Used Pokémon Go to Hack the 2016 Election. Here’s How By Glenn Fleishman

Sprint, T-Mobile Merger Would Mean Lower Wages Across Wireless Retail, Study Finds By Emily Gillespie

Lean In Is Misunderstood. Here’s What We Really Stand For. By Rachel Thomas


There are few comedians who have been as successful over a longer period of time than Ellen DeGeneres. But the Queen of Nice is thinking about retiring from her daily talk show gig, as the New York Times recounts in a recent profile. “I used to talk about airplane food,” DeGeneres muses. “What do I do now?”

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.