AT&T jumps into the fast lane with ultraspeedy 5G field trial
Now AT&T has publicly come out with its 5G roadmap. It follows Verizon's vow to hold field tests this year.
AT&T, the nation's second-largest wireless, carrier said Friday that it planned to start development work on 5G technology with partners Ericsson and Intel in the second quarter. Field trials are expected to start in Austin, Texas, by the end of the year.
The company's roadmap marks the next steps on the long journey to 5G. Though AT&T and Verizon are moving on tests now, the industry doesn't expect the technology to be widely available until 2020. With early work going into 5G now, the hype is building, thanks to the promise that it will bring a faster and more responsive network.
The rollout of 5G will enable all kinds of new opportunities. A more responsive network could let a doctor remotely perform superaccurate surgery with robotic hands, carriers and equipment makers have said. The increased capacity would also let you stream virtual-reality videos or games directly to your headset, or multiple streams of superhigh-definition video to all the big-screen televisions in your house.
"New experiences like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and more are about to test networks like never before," John Donovan, chief strategy officer of AT&T, said in a statement. "5G will help make them a reality."
It could even be fast and cheap enough to let you ditch your home broadband service. AT&T plans to roll out a home Internet service powered by this technology to a limited number of customers by the end of the year, according to a spokesman.
"What 5G will mean is that fixed wireless will become a realistic alternative or replacement for fixed Internet service, especially in rural America," said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics.
Currently, your phone's speed is measured in megabits per second. With 5G, it will be measured in gigabits per second.
AT&T said its 5G network will deliver 10 to 100 times the speed of today's 4G connections.
Beyond speed, 5G networks are also designed to be more power efficient, allowing a connected sensor on a farm to run for 10 years on a single battery.
AT&T believes it can move more quickly by relying more on software than the typical upgrade process of adding new equipment. The company said it has worked on many of the key ingredients of 5G technology in its labs for years.
The company plans to use the data gleaned from the Austin trials to help guide full deployment down the line.