AT&T To Launch True 5G Wireless Connectivity In 12 US Cities By 2H 2018

AT&T has positioned itself to be the first U.S. company to roll out real, honest-to-goodness mobile 5G service in a dozen markets by late 2018, the company announced today. And unlike AT&T's 5G Evolution service, which in many areas is just a rebranding of 4G LTE, what AT&T is pitching here is true 5G wireless performance that conforms to 3GPP's recently introduced 5G new radio (NR) standards.

"5G will change the way we live, work and enjoy entertainment," said Melissa Arnoldi, president, AT&T Technology and Operations. "We’re moving quickly to begin deploying mobile 5G this year and start unlocking the future of connectivity for consumers and businesses. With faster speeds and ultra-low latency, 5G will ultimately deliver and enhance experiences like virtual reality, future driverless cars, immersive 4K video and more."

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3GPP is an international wireless standards body that sets out official specifications. It recently completed key elements of 5G NR, allowing hardware, chipset, and device makers to start building products that fully leverage the high-speed protocol. The 5G network that AT&T plans to deploy in a dozen markets this year conform to the new industry standard and is faster than its 5G Evolution network.

That said, there could be some confusion going forward. While AT&T is rolling out mobile 5G in select markets, it will also continue to push 5G Evolution in "hundreds of additional metro areas," the company said. Seeing the term "5G" being thrown around could lead some customers to think they're getting true 5G speeds, when in fact they will still be on what's essentially a 4G LTE network.

The widespread roll out to true 5G will be a somewhat drawn out process, though it has begun in earnest. While AT&T will the first to adopt the standard, both Verizon and T-Mobile are not far behind. Verzion plans to launch 5G service in up to five U.S. markets this year, and T-Mobile will follow suit in 2019.

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