Verizon began lab-testing its 5G network last year, aiming to carry out the first real-world tests this year, and AT&T has now announced that it will be doing the same. The company seems even more optimistic than Verizon, which estimated 5G speeds some 30-50 times faster than LTE.
We expect 5G to deliver speeds 10-100 times faster than today’s average 4G LTE connections. Customers will see speeds measured in gigabits per second, not megabits. For reference, at one gigabit per second, you can download a TV show in less than 3 seconds.
Don’t get too excited just yet, though, as there are a couple of small hurdles to be overcome first …
The first is that there is as yet no international agreement on 5G standards. Carriers are currently using their own ideas of the best technology for high-speed data services, but the eventual tech used need to be agreed by 3GPP – the international body originally formed way back in 1998 to agree 3G standards. This is going to take some time.
The original timetable called for a draft standard to be published by 2018, with rollout sometime between then and 2020, but some players are pushing hard for at least some level of 5G service to be offered next year. Re/code reports that AT&T hopes to use the high-speed wireless service to offer broadband to homes in remote areas, and that it can do this even before mobile data standards are finalized.
The second hurdle for iPhone fans is Apple’s attitude to new standards. Apple often adopts a wait-and-see policy, having waited until 2012 to include LTE in the iPhone 5 – some two years after carriers began offering the service. Apple did, though, move more swiftly with LTE Advanced (LTE-A), adding support for the 150Mbit/s fast-track LTE service in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.