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AT&T's standards-based 5G service will arrive 'in the next few weeks'

This would likely make AT&T the first carrier to offer standards-based 5G commercial service.

Published onOctober 24, 2018

The AT&T logo.
  • According to the company’s top wireless executive, AT&T 5G service is coming “in the next few weeks.”
  • According to AT&T, this would be standards-based 5G service, which would likely make the company the first to market.
  • However, no phones will yet be able to directly connect to this service, which will likely only arrive in very small sections of a handful of cities.

AT&T’s John Donovan — the chief executive of the company’s mobility business — was part of a recent investors quarterly conference call. During the call, he said the AT&T 5G network will launch “in the next few weeks,” according to Fierce Wireless.

This rollout of 5G service would be certified by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which would likely make AT&T the first to market with “real” 5G.

This stands in stark contrast to the recent Verizon rollout of “5G” service via in-home routers. That service is uncertified by 3GPP, and as such doesn’t count as a true 5G rollout.

Unless Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint switch on 3GPP-certified 5G commercial service somewhere in the United States within the next few weeks — which doesn’t seem to be likely — AT&T will win bragging rights to say it was the first in the U.S. to 5G.

Of course, just because 5G service is turned on doesn’t mean it will be very useful.

What is 5G, and what can we expect from it?
Red 5G logo

For one thing, the 5G service will only be on in very specific sections of only a handful of cities. Donovan didn’t specify locations during the conference call, but AT&T has previously said it will launch 5G first in Dallas, TX; Waco, TX; Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; Raleigh, NC; and Oklahoma City, OK. Presumably, the initial rollout of 5G will happen in one or more of those locations.

However, even if you’re lucky enough to live in a specific area of one of those 5G cities, your current smartphone still won’t be able to directly connect to 5G signals. Instead, you’ll need to buy or lease a “puck” from AT&T, which will essentially be a portable hotspot which will connect to 5G towers, create a Wi-Fi signal, and then allow your smartphone to connect to it.

Donovan didn’t discuss the “puck” during the call, so the launch date, name, and price of the device is still unknown.

The race to be first to 5G is mostly between AT&T and Verizon, as T-Mobile has backed down and stated it would rather work on being the best 5G network and only rolling out when it makes sense to do so. Sprint has made some 5G claims, but also seems to be leaving the race to first between its competitors.

NEXT: 5G hype is coming. Don’t fall for it.

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