AT&T says they’ll roll out real mobile 5G this year

And I bet they can do it. AT&T put out a press release saying that they will have real, actual mobile 5G service in their phones and within 12 cities by the end of the year. They don’t give a lot more detail in their press release, so we don’t know what phones and what metro areas will give you the magic combination. But there’s still a lot of information to talk about.

What is 5G? Obviously it’s the next thing after 4G, except isn’t LTE the next thing after 4G? Technically, LTE is part of the 4G spec. 5G is the new standard that will let people get true 100Mbps service from a wireless device. This is kind of a breakthrough because 5G is really the first wireless service that’s fast enough to compete with wired internet. It opens the door to cutting out your home internet provider the same way you cut out the cable company. Reduce your bills, cut out toxic cable companies. That’s what 5G brings you.

What’s the difference between “fixed wireless 5G” and “mobile 5G”? Everyone has been talking about “fixed wireless 5G” because it’s been assumed that it would take a few years for 5G phones to actually work right. (When the first 4G phones came out, for example, they had about 30 minutes of battery life in 4G mode.) So we all figured the first use of 5G technology was to put an antenna on your roof and use wireless to replace your home internet.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s in the cards. I am 100% certain that all the cell companies, AT&T included, are working on this and when it’s ready, it’s going to look like doom and gloom for Comcast, Spectrum, and other inferior cable companies. These guys have been holding on despite massive cable-TV subscriber losses because everyone needs home internet and they’re usually the only game in town. When you can put up an antenna on your roof and have it supply you with internet, paying one price for home and cell, with one bill, people are going to dump cable companies like hot rocks, I’m telling you.

But while fixed wireless 5G is awesome, mobile 5G is sort of the holy grail. If you can get 100Mbps service without even putting an antenna on your roof, and if it’s cheap enough, then it’s going to be built into everything. Forget hooking up to anybody’s wires, just use a 5G router in your home and get internet. Or, if you don’t need anything more than your phone, you’ll still get high-speed service. There is pretty much nothing you can’t do if you have access to a good, stable 5G network. And that’s what AT&T wants to bring.

Will this be “fake 5G?” That’s actually a good question, since carriers called their services “4G” for years before they actually complied with internationally-agreed guidelines for what 4G really is. Even today, AT&T has rolled out a service they call “5G Evolution” that uses trickery to give you much faster speeds from their existing 4G LTE networks. That’s not a bad thing to be sure, but really, 5G is 5G and everything else… isn’t. So I get where you’re coming from there.

If this press release is to be believed, we’re looking at real, genuine, actual 5G when this happens. No tricks, no mislabeling, real 5G. And to me that sounds incredibly interesting.

But why should the average person care? After all, there are a lot of people who agree that it’s not just “size matters.” Having the fastest speed isn’t a victory by itself. You have to be able to do something with the technology. That’s where 5G really comes into play, though.

With an always-on 100Mbps connection no matter where you are, you can have augmented reality like a dashboard that shows you helpful tips about where you’re going, or access to tons of information all the time without even searching for it. This is a level of access that really enables regular people to live in a sci-fi universe. Today’s augmented reality is nice but it suffers because app makers can’t just assume you’ll have smooth access to the data speeds you need. There’s a ton of opportunity here for anyone who needs to get information on the go, and that’s pretty much everyone.

And you know what, I think AT&T can do it. The standards for 5G, while not completely formalized, are far enough along that they can start putting in equipment and cell phone manufacturers can start doing their part. I think AT&T sees the value in being first and they’re working hard to make it happen. By 2023, I think everyone will have 5G but for today it’s really new and interesting and I’m glad to see this move.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.