August 14, 2018 / 7:33 PM / 3 months ago

Sprint partners with LG to launch 5G smartphone in 2019

FILE PHOTO: A Sprint store sign is shown in El Cajon, California, Aug. 8, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

(Reuters) - Sprint Corp (S.N) said Tuesday it has partnered with phone manufacturer LG Electronics Inc (066570.KS) to launch a 5G smartphone in the first half of next year, marking the first 5G device deal for the No. 4 U.S. wireless carrier.

Sprint is working to persuade antitrust regulators to approve its merger with larger rival T-Mobile US Inc (TMUS.O) in a $26 billion deal, which the companies say will help them more quickly build the next-generation wireless network. That network is expected to eventually pave the way for new technologies like autonomous cars.

The LG phone will be customized to Sprint’s planned 5G network, and will be compatible with T-Mobile only on that carrier’s existing 4G network, John Tudhope, Sprint director of product development, said in an interview.

The price of the phone and exact launch date will be announced later, Sprint said in a news release.

Last month, Sprint introduced new unlimited wireless plans bundled with video streaming platform Hulu and music streaming service Tidal, in an effort to attract more customers with media content.

Tudhope said Sprint will continue to use content as a way to “bring to life the value of 5G,” as one of the benefits of the 5G network will be faster download times of video content on smartphones.

The company had previously announced it would initially launch its 5G network in nine cities in 2019, including New York City and Los Angeles.

Sprint is the fourth-largest cellphone service provider in terms of number of customers, after Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) , AT&T Inc (T.N) and T-Mobile.

Reporting by Sheila Dang; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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