AT&T To Start 5G Network Trials This Year Boasting Up To 100X Speed Increase Over LTE

Streaming video already accounts for the bulk of mobile traffic, and by 2020, Cisco reckons it will account for 75 percent mobile data. Higher resolution feeds and video sharing apps like Snapchat and Vine are all driving this trend, but can the wireless networks we use to access all this data keep up?

There's a concerted effort between industry heavyweights to ensure it can. One example is that AT&T has partnered up with Ericsson and Intel to help test 5G network technology. The first tests will be conducted in a laboratory setting in Austin, Texas in the second quarter of this year, followed by outdoor tests sometime in the summer.

AT&T Van

The transition to 5G will be a major development in mobile. According to AT&T, 5G will bring about network speeds that are anywhere from 10-100 times faster than today's 4G LTE network connections—customers will be seeing speeds measured in gigabits per second (Gbps) instead of megabits (Mbps). To put that into perspective, you could download a TV show in 3 seconds on a 1Gbps connection.

This won't happen overnight—the tests will give AT&T some direction in how it proposes potential 5G standards, so we're talking about something that's at a very early stage here. Nevertheless, AT&T says it will set the stage for widespread commercial and mobile availability once standards for 5G are established.

"AT&T’s 5G field trials will play an important role in ensuring rapid and wide-scale adoption of this next generation mobile technology," said Arun Bansal, Senior Vice President and Head of Business Unit Radio, Ericsson. "5G will impact the entire mobile network – from devices to access and core to cloud – and open up exciting new IoT applications for consumers and industry, so Ericsson is enabling AT&T to move beyond 5G lab tests to gain a greater understanding of 5G’s potential in their own network environments and markets."

While video is the main driver of Internet traffic, it's no the only one. AT&T points out that things like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, and smart cities will help "test networks like never before."