5G, the next step after 4G, is also the communications industry’s next big push, whether you’re ready or not. And most are probably not. Unless you’re a chipset maker like Qualcomm or a network carrier like Verizon and AT&T. The latter has just revealed a small piece of its promise to bring what it brands as “mobile 5G” to parts of the US this year, and it will include parts of Texas and Atlanta on its first phase.
Carriers are somewhat surprisingly aggressive in pushing 5G to the market, in contrast to how they mostly dragged their feet on 4G until recently. More than just the boost in speed, 5G networks offer these companies a new battlezone, moving away from congested 4G lines and markets.
AT&T has promised to bring real 5G, not the “fake” 5G Evolution, to a dozen US markets before 2018 is over. For the first time, it has named three cities, including parts of Dallas, Texas, Waco, Texas, and Atlanta. The carrier promises to name more cities in the coming months but reveals no timetable for any of them.
AT&T claims to be the first carrier to deliver mobile 5G, though Verizon has also made similar claims. The latter seems to focus on using 5G for home broadband, while AT&T’s messaging is more generic, touching not just on mobile devices but other “new, exciting experiences”. 5G is heralded to be the network technology that will empower smart cities, self-driving vehicles, virtual and augmented reality, and more.
The problem with these carriers’ rush to 5G is that there are no consumer devices yet that can actually leverage those insane (by 4G standards) speeds. AT&T’s equipment might be ready to send out 5G signals but until 5G-capable phones, computers, and networking products come out, those will be lost on all but the companies who can afford 5G receivers. Then again, 2018 has just started and AT&T, as well as Verizon, have plenty of time to set up the infrastructure in time for the arrival of the first 5G phones later this year.