Not to be outdone by Verizon
, AT&T just announced that it will also start preparing its network for the next, 5G wireless data standard
, whenever its final characteristics are ironed out. For the moment, AT&T says it will strive to provide fiber-like data download speeds, which most likely means up to 1 Gbps, just as with Verizon's current undertaking.
America's second-biggest carrier will start testing a virtual 5G network in its Austin, Texas labs by the summer, cooperating with Ericsson and Intel for the equipment. It will gradually roll out the speedy wireless broadband as a point-to-point delivery for homes and businesses afterwards, using a high-frequency millimeter band radio spectrum. Verizon already has such a network operational at its Basking Ridge, NJ headquarters, and AT&T won't be far behind, it seems.
New experiences like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and more are about to test networks like never before. 5G will help make them a reality.
Thus, it may not be by accident that Qualcomm yesterday unveiled the world's first commercially available Gigabit class data modem chip - the X16 LTE
radio - and said it will enter phones in H2 2016. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) - the body that is responsible for creating the standard - has defined 5G network speeds as being 10 Gbps, with peak speeds of up to 20 Gbps, but its characteristics won't be finalized before 2020, and we need more speed now. If the 4G history is any indication, the carriers may just start labeling their upcoming 1 Gbps network speeds as 5G, instead of LTE Advanced Plus, Pro, or something of the sorts anyway. AT&T says that the new network will be 10-100 times faster than current LTE speeds, and we are inclined to believe it, as the average 4G LTE speed for the US is about 9 Mbps and change at the moment.
What will the new 1 Gbps networks of Verizon and AT&T serve for? Well, video, of course, those 4K Netflix sessions won't stream themselves. Both AT&T, and Verizon before it, mention in their press releases about the "5G" rollout that it is mainly done because of rising demand for video streaming, which now occupies the vast majority of total data consumption on their networks.
Not only that, but according to John Donovan, chief strategy officer of AT&T: "New experiences like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and more are about to test networks like never before. 5G will help make them a reality." Hear, hear. For a quick primer on the other goodies that 5G will bring further down the road, besides the speed increase, check out this infographic below.