5G is one of the most anticipated technology breakthroughs, and will be high on the agenda at Mobile World Congress 2016. Therefore, racing to get ahead and get a grip on the technology as soon as possible, U.S. operator AT&T has followed the footsteps of its rival Verizon by announcing plans to trial 5G later in 2016, revealing partnerships with Ericsson and Intel to further develop the technology for use.
5G isn't expected to be introduced until 2020 and AT&T has been understandably restrained when it comes to speaking out about its 5G strategy. The company's mobile boss Glenn Lurie urged caution in an interview in 2015 on publicity around 5G technology not wanting to promise anything too soon.
However recently, AT&T, who will be a big presence at MWC, unveiled its 5G roadmap saying it will work with the two vendors on 5G solutions from Q2 this year, and will be holding outdoor tests and trials over the summer. Following this first step, AT&T will then progress to hold 5G trials to fixed locations in Austin, Texas before the end of 2016.
In September 2015, Verizon announced similar plans, also partnering with Ericsson, among others, claiming to hold their own trials in 2016. Across Asia and Europe, other operators have been talking about trialing 5G even though the technology isn't expected to be implemented for a few more years and standards are still yet to be defined.
According to AT&T, once 5G technology standards have been set, it will conduct trials "in such a way that we'll be able to pivot to compliant commercial deployments" with the first phase of that process expected to get complete in 2018. The company expects 5G to deliver speeds of up to 10-100 times faster than average 4G networks, with speeds "measured in gigabits per second, not megabits."
"New experiences like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and more are about to test networks like never before," says John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president at AT&T. "These technologies will be immersive , pervasive and responsive to customers. 5G will make them a reality."