AT&T set to test speedy ‘5G’
AT&T said it is ready to conduct “5G” field trials by the end of the year, following a similar announcement from Verizon.
5G is shorthand for the “fifth generation” of wireless and it translates into speeds, AT&T says, that are 10-100 times faster than today’s average 4G LTE connections. That means you might be able to download a TV show in less than 3 seconds.
AT&T will be collaborating with Ericsson and Intel on 5G solutions starting in the second quarter; the field trials will take place in “fixed” locations in Austin, Tx.
Back in September, Verizon announced that it would also begin 5G field tests in 2016 and has been working with Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung to make it happen.
It is still going to take a while before 5G is commercially viable—2020 looks like a reasonable bet. There is still no formal agreement on what 5G is, though standards are expected to get hammered out in 2018.
“With all the hype around the next G, we are in danger that 5G becomes another meaningless marketing word,” says Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, adding that “what 5G involves is a radical rebuilding of how the network provider delivers the bits and bytes. Yes, it’s going to be faster, but also more responsively at a lower cost.”
Qualcomm chief technology Matt Grob also agrees that 5G is a lot more than just about faster speeds. “It will have the ability to support more reliable communications, low latency communications, extreme security. (And) it will have the ability to scale down to small low cost sensors and things and have very long battery life.”
AT&T’s fixed 5G tests into the home are seen by the provider as a potential high speed broadband alternative. “The driving event there for us is we’re a big broadband provider, we have merger commitments that we’ve agreed to, and we’ve agreed to serve some rural areas with wireless broadband,” says John Donovan, Chief Strategy Officer and Group President, for AT&T Technology and Operations. “Ultimately as an integrated carrier we have a lot of incentive to (add) any new technology (to our) footprint, particularly if that 5G for fixed usage has better economics than fiber in certain locales.”
The more advanced 5G built for cellphones, tablets and a host of other mobile devices, comes later, Donovan says. “When it’s ready, we’re ready.”
AT&T reports that data traffic on its wireless network grew more than 150,000% from the dawn of the iPhone age in 2007 through 2015, largely driven by video. In 2016, more than 60% of the data traffic on AT&T’s network was related to video, the company says. Propelling the next wave: 4K video, virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and the Internet of Things.
As it happens, the competition among major 5G players is to likely to intensify.
“It’s been rather noisy lately with speed claims and all those things,” Donovan says. “We felt compelled to put our roadmap out more specifically because increasingly Verizon is running reasonably uncontested as if they’re in a technology leadership position. And that frankly is not at all the situation.”
Verizon presumably begs to differ.