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AT&T becomes second major carrier to test ultra-fast 5G network this year

Following Verizon Wireless’ last September’s announcement about working on 5G technology with its partners, AT&T has become the second major US carrier to jump into the bandwagon of 5G mobile networks. AT&T has confirmed that it will begin testing 5G this year and also affirmed to start using some components of the next generation mobile network to commercially offer wireless broadband by 2016-end.att-5g-network

The next generation of mobile networks 5G is in the development mode, still a few years away from general consumers. Although touted as “10 to 100 times” faster than our current generation 4G networks, 5G networks will not be coming in next 2-3 years.

Technical standards for 5G has been already set up in 2015, but the technology will be commercially available by the end of this decade. However, the large mobile networks across the globe, including South Korea, China, Europe and the United States is stepping forward to launch the network sooner than others. Korea, meanwhile, has already announced that 5G network will be available for its consumers in 2018, before it hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In the US, Verizon was the first carrier in 2015 to announce the plans to test 5G and now joins AT&T. According to Re/Code, “there is a benefit for AT&T to using the technology, even before the cellphone standards are set, in order to meet its merger-related commitments to expand broadband access to rural and outlying communities that today have DSL or satellite as their only options.”

AT&T is very excited to get an early version to do the broadband replacement, according to AT&T chief strategy officer John Donovan. Partnering with Ericsson and Intel, AT&T will begin testing the 5G technology in its labs in the first half of 2016. The company has plans to try its hands on field testing the next generation mobile networks in Austin in the second half. AT&T wants to test and determine how the 5G equipments will stand against real-world challenges such as wind and rain.

According to experts, 5G network’s components will be utilizing high-frequency waves for faster data transfer, which could also travel shorter than the current frequency range, hence more chances of interference. Initially, all companies will be providing 5G connectivity to home broadband users, then to data-only devices like tablets and finally entering to smartphone-world at the end of this decade.

Apart from the service providers, even 5G equipment-makers are also in a fierce battle over the hardware development and distribution. World leaders in mobile network equipments Nokia Networks and Ericsson have already showcased their hardware prototypes which closely resemble the current network’s hardware, while Samsung and Huawei are also in the race with their radically overhauled 5G hardware. Meanwhile, all global standards bodies in the world are meeting each other to set a universal 5G standard. Not to forget, the last time there were several “4G” networks released, following the current standard “LTE” network.

The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance defines the following requirements for 5G networks:

  • Data rates of several tens of megabits per second should be supported for tens of thousands of users
  • 1 gigabit per second to be offered simultaneously to many workers on the same office floor
  • Several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections to be supported for massive sensor deployments
  • Spectral efficiency should be significantly enhanced compared to 4G
  • Coverage should be improved
  • Signalling efficiency should be enhanced
  • Latency should be reduced significantly compared to LTE.
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