AT&T's 5G ambitions expand, adding Middletown, NJ to its trial sites

5G isn't ready yet, but AT&T is aggressively leading its development.

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Stephen Lawson

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Just as you were getting used to the power of 4G LTE, the carriers are already looking ahead to a world of 5G cellular connectivity. AT&T announced on Monday that it plans to add Middletown, N.J. to its 5G-based home broadband trials. AT&T previously announced that Austin, Texas would be part of its broadband tests. The trial locations, which could include more cities, will roll out by the end of the summer. AT&T also announced it was partnering with Nokia to expand its 5G lab trial work.

The early trials in various locations are part of AT&T’s efforts to help finalize an international standard for 5G connectivity. AT&T says 3GPP, the international standards organization responsible for 5G, is expected to complete the first phase of setting the 5G standard by 2018.

Why this matters: Unlike the advent of 4G, and 3G before it, the arrival of 5G is about more than faster phones and better movie downloads. The super speeds promised by 5G are expected to help usher in drastic changes in our technological reality including autonomous cars capable of making real-time decisions backed by the cloud. 5G will also power the ever-growing range of smart home devices—the so-called IoT—and possibly commercial delivery drones dropping packages on your doorstep.

How fast is it?

5G is expected to be anywhere from 10 to 100 times faster than 4G. AT&T says it was able to achieve speeds greater than 10 gigabits per second in early tests, but that is well under the expected 5G speeds ranging from 20 to nearly 80Gbps.

Before we get to our next sci-fi future, however, a lot of hard, boring work must be done, such as deciding how to utilize sub-6Hz and millimeter wave spectrum, and technologies like advanced beamforming. 5G is expected to roll out commercially by 2020.

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