AT&T Reveals 5G Development Road Map

by Matt Klassen on February 19, 2016

5GAT&T is finally ready to admit that 5G is coming, although with little done to truly define what that term means, I’m not exactly sure what is different now than a few months ago when it panned rival Verizon for making a similar statement of intent.

But that said, late last week AT&T unveiled the beginnings of its road map for next gen 5G wireless network development, one that through collaboration with notables Ericsson and Intel, will attempt to begin commercial trials on this speedy wireless successor sometime before the end of 2016.

Before you get excited about the next generation of speedy streaming video, consider that commercial trials will initially have little to do with data access, and will likely focus more on the sort of ubiquitous connectivity that things like IoT will demand, and you and I will likely see nothing regarding 5G technology before 2020. What’s strange, however, is that AT&T’s plan is rife with its own lofty promises and vague targets, the sort that get everyone excited about possibilities that will likely never come to fruition.

According to the early 5G hype, carriers like Verizon and AT&T are expecting 5G technology to deliver speeds 10-100 times faster than today’s average 4G LTE connection, and in case you didn’t notice, that’s a fairly broad target to hit.

As AT&T explains in its press release, “Customers will see speeds measured in gigabits per second, not megabits. For reference, at one gigabit per second, you can download a TV show in less than 3 seconds. Customers will also see much lower latency with 5G. Latency, for example, is how long it takes after you press play on a video app for the video to start streaming on your device. We expect 5G latency in the range of 1 to 5 milliseconds.”

“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&T Technology and Operations. “These technologies will be immersive, pervasive and responsive to customers. 5G will help make them a reality. 5G will reach its full potential because we will build it on a software-centric architecture that can adapt quickly to new demands and give customers more control of their network services. Our approach is simple – deliver a unified experience built with 5G, software-defined networking (SDN), Big Data, security and open source software.”

What is truly interesting here is that AT&T resisted making such an announcement several months ago when Verizon revealed its own development road map, with Ma Bell saying that it wanted to make sure it could better define 5G technology as a whole, so it could better define its targets and how it will achieve them. The strange thing is that none of those things have happened, and by offering hope that 5G will deliver between 10-100 times the speed of 4G LTE, that says to me AT&T really has no idea what 5G means and no idea how much better it might be than current wireless technology.

In fact, it seems all AT&T has done is deliver its own over-hyped 5G development plan, one full of exactly the sort of “over-promising and under-delivering” it criticized Verizon for announcing a few short months ago, rolling out exactly the sort of definition-less phrases like “5G” and “ultra fast” that will get everyone excited about something Ma Bell doesn’t really even know it can create. Let’s hope its partners Ericsson and Intel have a better understanding of what’s achievable and what’s not.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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