You can go online right now with the Nintendo Switch. You can play games online and buy games from the eShop. What you can't do is voice chat, and you don't have access to things like parties, or online lobbies outside of games. Well, Nintendo explained why the premium online service containing those aforementioned features for the Switch has been delayed, and it has to do with quality control.
Originally Nintendo had announced that the premium version of the Nintendo Network would go live this fall. It would require a premium fee to access things such as the online multiplayer modes for various games.
However, the company recently announced that the premium Nintendo Network service would be delayed into the early first half of 2018. Along with announcing that the premium service would be delayed, there was also the announcement for the Classic Game Selection, which is an add-on service for those who pay the $20 a year service fee for the Nintendo Network to access various select classic games from Nintendo's archive.
Now originally this just seemed like a bad scheme to get people to pay for old Nintendo titles, but in reality it's a brilliant new feature that allows gamers to play classic NES or SNES titles with brand new Nintendo Network implementation. What this means is that games like Super Mario World or Smash Tennis would enable players to go online and team up with or compete against other players in these classic games instead of being stuck solely with the local multiplayer option.
According to Reggie Fils-Aime, this delay was so that Nintendo could flesh out the quality of the online component and provide users with the highest caliber content available. Fils-Aime uses Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as an example of a Nintendo product that was delayed and worth the wait. Given the high rate of sales and the crazy-high attachment rate for Breath of the Wild, I would definitely say that he has a point.
For now, Nintendo Switch owners can still go online and play various games against other people, for free. In fact, what's available right now has a lot of Nintendo Switch owners quite comfortable with their purchase. Games like Mario Kart 8: Deluxe has fast and fluent online play with quick loading lobbies, and despite the limited forms of communication, voice chat isn't something that's terribly missed. ARMS operates in a very similar fashion to Mario Kart 8, and most people seem to be fine with that.
Of course, for games like Splatoon 2 where teamwork and communication are key for victory, the lack of voice chat could play a detrimental role in the game's online ecosystem. Personally, I wouldn't mind if the online stayed free for the Nintendo Switch even if it meant never getting voice chat, but I know there are a lot of people out there who just can't live without it, especially after playing games like Call of Duty on Xbox Live.