Now that the industry has settled on a spec for 5G, carriers are racing to use it — and AT&T hopes to be one of the first. It just unveiled plans to launch spec-based mobile 5G (not the fixed-in-place kind) to everyday consumers in 12 cities by late 2018. It’s not specific about where those markets are or which devices will be the first to adopt the faster speeds, but the arrival of the 5G spec has kicked off the start of hardware development.
While 5G technology offers a path for a slowing industry to revive growth, challenges abound. Mobile-phone companies, chipmakers, device manufacturers and software developers will need to spend about $200 billion a year in research and capital expenses to get there. And engineers will have to find ways to get the technology to work around interference from trees and rain and provide a strong enough signal to handle the anticipated demand.
AT&T’s announcement suggests the timing could ramp up, at least for some. But the carrier is being cagey when it comes to specific launch details. It hasn’t listed the markets where mobile 5G will be offered, much less the phone or phones the service will work on or the precise speeds consumers can expect, though something in excess of 1GB seems likely. Nor has AT&T disclosed any pricing details.