AT&T is planning to deliver its brand of 5G networking to a dozen cities. And the company on Wednesday (Feb. 21) announced the first three in that lineup.
The carrier on Wednesday revealed that part of Dallas, Atlanta, and Waco, Texas will be the first areas to get access to its 5G network this year. AT&T says that it will announce other cities it's planning for deployments over the next several months. The company added that it will keep an "aggressive schedule" for rolling out its network.
All of the major U.S. carriers are testing and preparing to deploy 5G on their own schedules. AT&T's technology is based on the standards adopted by the wireless industry late last year that will ultimately dictate how handsets and other devices connect to 5G networks. What customers experience on AT&T's network this year, in other words, will be something of an analog to what 5G will be like years down the road.
Still, there will be some limitations. This year's 5G network from AT&T will rely on millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum at first. Those implementations typically offer less range than other options and, in most cases, you'll need to have a semblance of line-of-sight to actually get 5G connectivity. As time goes on, however, AT&T will transition to other bands and offer more traditional, non-line-of-sight connectivity.
A core component of this evolution will be AT&T's ongoing effort to get its LTE network equipped with technology that will integrate with 5G. The company said that that equipment will allow it to "easily migrate to 5G" when the time is right.
Those lucky enough to connect to 5G in the initial markets will get theoretical speeds of "multiple gigabits per second" over mobile 5G. Devices will also offer much lower latency than you'd get from LTE.
The biggest problem right now, however, is actually getting 5G-enabled handsets. AT&T said that it plans to start selling a larger number of mobile devices and smartphones that work over 5G starting next year.