5G wireless technology is the fifth generation, or the most recent, cellular technology that carriers are just starting to deploy. The main thing that sets 5G apart from the previous technologies is the data speed. Current LTE or 4G speeds top out at about 50 Mbps, while 3G topped out at about 144 Kbps. With 5G users can expect to enjoy speeds as high as 20 Gbps, which is faster than many wired connections. Also, 5G is touted to provide higher capacity, which will put less strain on the network as more and more people stream high definition content to their mobile devices. Lastly, 5G improves latency which means less delay or lag when you’re connecting to the network. Currently latency with LTE hover at around 40 milliseconds. With 5G, that latency drops to about 1 millisecond.
While most carriers were initially promising a wide-spread roll out of 5G in 2020, they’ve become a little more reserved over the last year. Here’s what we learned from each carrier at Mobile World Congress 2018.
It’s no secret that Verizon wants to be the first to implement fixed and mobile 5G. The company has been working for years to update its architecture to support 5G service, and we should start seeing the results of that work in the near future.
Verizon’s plan is still to role fixed 5G out to select markets in late 2018. As for mobile 5G, they have yet to provide a timeline for implementation, but they do state that they are hard at work improving its architecture and want to be the first to provide reliable true 5G mobile service.
Naturally, AT&T is also aiming to be the first U.S. wireless carrier to offer 5G widely. The carrier has committed to rolling out the network in a dozen cities over the year with Atlanta, Dallas, and Waco, Texas, being the first cities to see the service. While it’s a pretty impressive claim, there’s one catch: The carrier will use mmWave for the service, rolling out to additional spectrum bands in the future.
The 5G system will also not be stand-alone: LTE will serve as the backbone for the system, with 5G picking up when you’re close to one of the carrier’s transmitters. Since AT&T 5G is rolling out on mmWave, it’s likely you’ll see small pockets of 5G service close to ground transmitters instead of widely available as is 4G LTE.
At Mobile World Congress, T-Mobile’s chief technology officer Neville Ray announced that 5G service would roll out to 30 major cities including New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas in 2018. Like AT&T, the T-Mobile 5G network will piggyback off it’s robust LTE spectrum, kicking in when you’re within range of a transmitter. Realistically, you should see limited 5G service in these markets starting in 2019 when 5G-capable smartphones are introduced.
In February 2018, Sprint, the only carrier not to travel to Mobile World Congress, announced it would roll out 5G in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., in 2019. Since the company is using Massive MIMO antennas to deliver 5G, it’s promising that customers in these markets should begin seeing massive speed increases in April 2018, even while using 4G devices.
Like the other carriers, Sprint will use LTE as the network backbone with 5G picking up in areas with coverage. While Sprint expects to roll out its service to these six markets in 2019 as 5G capable devices come to market, the company promises a national rollout in 2019.