As the need for faster speed grows, U.S. network operator AT&T is gearing up to begin its first field trials of 5G or fifth-generation cellular technology.
AT&T is poised to begin conducting 5G field trials by end of 2016. According to the carrier, the 5G network offers speeds that are 10 to 100 times faster than current-day 4G connections. So basically, once 5G becomes a commercial reality, users could potentially download TV shows in less than three seconds!
AT&T intends to start the lab tests by H1 2016 and will be working in tandem with Ericsson and Intel. This will be followed by the field testing in "fixed locations" in Austin, Texas, which will help the network operator gauge how 5G equipment is able to grapple with conditions such as wind and rain.
The carrier has let on that it has already worked on several aspects required for 5G technology in its labs over the years. The data AT&T will glean from the field trials in Austin will assist the company in deploying 5G services in the future.
"New experiences like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and more are about to test networks like never before. These technologies will be immersive, pervasive and responsive to customers. 5G will help make them a reality," says John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president, AT&T Technology and Operations.
"5G will reach its full potential because we will build it on a software-centric architecture that can adapt quickly to new demands and give customers more control of their network services. Our approach is simple - deliver a unified experience built with 5G, software-defined networking (SDN), Big Data, security and open source software," he added.
Presently, a phone's speed is measurable in megabits/second. However, with the arrival of 5G this will change to gigabits/second. AT&T also claims that with the onset of 5G, subscribers will see lower latency. Latency is basically the time taken for a video to start streaming after one presses play on the video app.
The carrier estimates that with 5G, the latency will be between one millisecond to five milliseconds.
AT&T sees the fixed 5G tests as a probable high-speed alternative to broadband in the future. However, it will be a while before 5G becomes commercially viable - it's still a few years away.
Donovan is optimistic that AT&T will be ready to offer 5G to users once the advanced 5G built for tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices becomes a reality. He says: "When it's ready, we're ready."
While no formal agreement on 5G exists, the standards are anticipated to be put into place by 2018.
Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr