AT&T Inc. has reached speeds of up to 14 gigabits a second in lab trials of 5G wireless technology, and plans to test the high-speed network by beaming its DirecTV Now video service to homes in Austin, Texas before midyear.
Through a collaboration with a dozen partners including Intel Corp., Ericsson AB and Qualcomm Inc., AT&T plans to use experimental airwaves to test fifth-generation or 5G residential and business services as a potentially cheaper method than fiber-optic cable for high-capacity connections, said John Donovan, AT&T’s chief strategy officer. AT&T announced its 5G plans Wednesday at CES in Las Vegas.
Eager to keep pace with Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T is in a race to develop new 5G services and drum up revenue in the emerging field as its wireless and TV subscription businesses face increased competition.
Donovan, who has led AT&T’s network upgrades over the past nine years from 2G to 3G to 4G, says 5G will have a bigger impact by enabling things like driverless cars, live maps and virtual reality. “Five G is a bigger thing than I have ever been involved in my career because it opens up whole new worlds,” he said.
Networking gearmakers, chip manufacturers and service providers will be vying for key roles in 5G technology at the annual tech show. Unlike earlier generations of wireless technology that focused on faster speeds, 5G is aimed at delivering quicker response times along with higher capacity.
Donovan said he expects AT&T to offer the first commercial so-called point-to-point 5G service in 2018. The first mobile 5G service should be commercially available in 2019, he said.