US mobile operator AT&T followed rival Verizon by announcing plans to trial 5G later this year, revealing partnerships with Ericsson and Intel to develop the technology.
AT&T has until now been surprisingly subdued on its 5G strategy. Indeed late last year, in an interview with Mobile World Live, the operator’s mobile boss Glenn Lurie urged caution on publicity around the technology.
In a statement today the company unveiled its “5G roadmap,” saying it will work with the two vendors on 5G solutions from Q2 this year, and hold outdoor tests and trials over the summer.
It will then progress to hold 5G field trials to fixed locations in Austin before the end of 2016.
Main rival Verizon made a similar announcement in September last year, also partnering with Ericsson, among others, vowing to hold field trials in 2016.
Along with the US, operators in Asia and Europe have also been talking up 5G plans, even though it is widely expected that the first commercial network will not launch until 2020, and standards for the technology are still yet to be defined.
AT&T noted in its statement it will conduct its trials “in such a way that we’ll be able to pivot to compliant commercial deployments once 5G technology standards are set”, with the first phase of that process expected to complete in 2018.
The company did however make some predictions for the technology, stating it expects 5G to deliver speeds of up to 10-100 times faster than average 4G networks today, 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,” said John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president at AT&T. “These technologies will be immersive, pervasive and responsive to customers. 5G will help make them a reality.”
In an interview with Bloomberg, Donovan also addressed the fact that Verizon had seemingly taken the 5G lead in the US. “I know Verizon says they will be first, but we are right there with them,” he said.