No OnePlus 5G phone for Verizon in the first half of 2019

CNET | 12/6/2018 | Jessica Dolcourt,
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The OnePlus 6T is an exclusive for T-Mobile. But future OnePlus phones could still hop to Verizon.

It seems like a perfect marriage. OnePlus has announced it'll launch its 5G phone in the first half of 2019. Verizon can't stop talking about 5G. But fresh evidence that OnePlus' 5G phone won't land on Verizon's network came to light this week at Qualcomm's annual tech summit held in Maui, HI.

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OnePlus has already cozied up to Verizon with the OnePlus 6T, which has been certified to run on the carrier's network, despite a close partnership deal with rival T-Mobile. Yet OnePlus' CEO, Pete Lau, insists this wasn't a contractual exclusive, adding in an interview with CNET that OnePlus is "focused on maximizing success for ourselves and T-Mobile in this partnership."

However, growth is always a goal, and No. 1 Verizon is an far shinier prize in the lucrative US market than No. 4 T-Mobile.

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"We're not against having discussions with other carriers in looking toward the future with what's possible," Lau said, through an interpreter. "We're open and welcoming."

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But there's a more practical reason for OnePlus to hold off a Verizon 5G partnership right now. Its first 5G phone, which will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 chipset, won't support mmWave (millimeter wave), a band of the highest-speed 5G wireless spectrum that Verizon's 5G network will use. Instead, Lau said that the phone will operate on sub-6 spectrum, which has a smaller internal antenna and is easier to deploy.

This type of 5G fragmentation will prove to become a hairy problem for phone makers and service providers, since each phone must be tuned to each network's specific cocktail of mmWave and sub-6 5G bands.

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