AT&T’s big shtick lately has been that they’re not just talking about 5G — they’re paving the way in getting it launched. Verizon took those honors for the launch of 4G, so it’s natural for AT&T to want to get out ahead of them this time.
Thankfully, it isn’t all just talk. AT&T has announced their preliminary plans for deploying 5G, the first phase of which will start later this year. Their immediate goal will be to meet the technological targets of 1 gigabits per second throughput on their current 4G deployments, though their 5G tests are currently hitting up to 14 gigabits. They’ve also successfully tested 3-milisecond latency, which is pretty insane for cellular connections.
Going forward, AT&T is set to begin more 5G trials, including one where DirecTV customers will be delivered video over a fixed 5G connection using DirecTV Now in order to test video delivery over their millimeter wave technology.
All of this is to say that once the 3GPP fully defines the standard of what a “5G” connection is (no such standard currently exists, but target numbers have been proposed), AT&T is likely to be ready to go with a network that can fully meet those requirements.
The only question at that point will be how fast can they get the network up and going across the country, and how soon can we expect devices that will support it? It doesn’t sound like those answers will become clear in 2017, but it shouldn’t be too much longer.