AT&T will join the ranks of Verizon as it prepares to test its new '5G' network before the end of 2016.
The future of wireless communications is here, and AT&T is not about to be left behind in the race to provide the fastest speed to customers. According to a report from USA Today, the company is right behind Verizon as it prepares to conduct ‘5G’ field trials before the end of the year.
5G refers to the fifth generation of wireless networks, and AT&T has already boasted that the new network will be as much as 100 times faster than current 4G LTE connections. The company is working with Ericsson and Intel to roll out 5G field tests in predetermined locations in Austin, Texas.
Verizon is also hard at work on a 5G network, having announced upcoming field tests back in September. Verizon is working in partnership with Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung to get the next generation of wireless networks off the ground.
Despite the promise of breakneck speeds, it will still be some time before 5G networks are ready to be shared with consumers. Some estimate that the network could be available by 2020, though it will not be rolled out until industry standards are written.
According to Roger Entner, an analyst from Recon Analytics, 5G is little more than a buzzword and an idea at this point. He said that 5G will involve a complete overhaul of the way the network provider delivers bits and bytes to users. If companies can pull it off, Entner believes that speeds will go up while prices will drop.
Matt Grob, the chief technology officer at Qualcomm agrees that 5G could be huge in the coming years. “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 thinks that the network could even replace broadband internet in some cases. “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,” said John Donovan, the 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.”