You’re going to hear a lot of claims about “5G firsts” as the leading telecom companies slug it out to deliver the next generation of wireless. And one just came from AT&T.
The company says it has successfully completed the “world’s first millimeter wave” 5G connection over a live network to what will be commercially available “standards-based” commercial mobile 5G device.
Did your eyes just cross? Let’s break this down a bit first.
So, 5G is the next generation of wireless that will likely take technology to the next level, making today’s tech-supported reality look a bit more like what we see in our favorite sci-fi films, with wicked smart devices, autonomous cars and smart cities. And some of the baby steps toward this will probably start with smarter, faster phones running on 5G networks.
With AT&T’s test, the device used was a NETGEAR Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot, rather than a mobile 5G smartphone. You know, the device a phone or tablet connects to for accessing Wi-Fi.
AT&T’s test was completed in Waco, Texas, which is one of a dozen previously named cities where AT&T says it will be the first carrier in the U.S. to deliver mobile 5G service.
Among its other promised launch cities for this year are Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas; Houston; Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; New Orleans; Oklahoma City; Raleigh, North Carolina; and San Antonio, with 19 others slated for early 2019.
As AT&T focuses on 5G on the go, rival Verizon is embarking on a different 5G strategy, initially targeting what is essentially a replacement for broadband in the home, called “fixed wireless.” Earlier this month, Verizon offered the world’s first commercial 5G service when it launched its 5G Home offering in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento. But Verizon is also looking to drive 5G mobility service in 2019.
There’s plenty of hype around all of this, of course. AT&T Mobility and Entertainment president David Christopher called the news a “seminal moment in the advancement of mobile 5G technology.”
These are, indeed, early days for 5G, which combines blazing speeds with faster network responsiveness, also called low latency. By no means will this vast rollout of 5G happen overnight, which means the game-changing promises you’ll hear about – everything from remote surgery to self-driving cars—is likely to go well into next decade.
You will start to see 5G phones roll out next year.
Carl Pei, the co-founder of the Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus, has said his company will be among the first to deliver such a handset in 2019. The company is rumored to be gaining a U.S. carrier, believed to be T-Mobile, for its next device—a 4G smartphone called the OnePlus 6T that is expected to be announced on Monday.
T-Mobile, of course, has its own ambitions for 5G, with or without its merger partner (pending Uncle Sam’s approval), Sprint.
To further complicate the marketing battleground, Sprint and LG announced earlier this year that the two of them would partner on Sprint’s first 5G phone, slated for release in the first half of 2019.
All of this is a long way from Oct. 13, 1983—the date, AT&T is all too happy to remind you, when it teamed up with Ameritech Mobile Communications to launch the nation’s first commercial cellular telephone service in Chicago.
While each of the carriers battle for the various 5G “firsts,” none of it really matters until actual people can get their hands on the devices and have access to the networks. In other words, most of you will be waiting awhile.