The move to 5G will happen sooner than anticipated.
In a statement on Thursday (Jan. 4), AT&T confirmed that it will launch 5G connectivity in 12 markets by the end of the year. And it won't be fixed broadband; the service will work with the carrier's phones.
Most of the deployments will begin going online in late-2018, according to the company. That's at least a year ahead of when many in the industry believed 5G could launch and become ubiquitous around the U.S.
According to AT&T, the move last month by 3GPP, an organization that is developing 5G standards, to adopt certain elements of those standards, will allow the carrier to accelerate its deployment. While 3GPP still has more work to do on finalizing the 5G standards, its decision last month paved the way for equipment makers to create antennas, chipsets, and other technology to get 5G networks up and running.
"We’re confident this latest standards milestone will allow us to bring 5G to market faster without compromising its long-term vision," AT&T said in a statement.
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AT&T and other carriers, including Verizon and T-Mobile, are in an arms race to get 5G up and running as quickly as possible. They reason is that the sooner they can offer the advantages 5G delivers, including blazing-fast speeds and low latency, the more quickly they can attract new customers. Verizon has already said that it's planning to launch trial 5G in several markets this year (although it's fixed broadband) and T-Mobile and Sprint are also ramping up their efforts.
AT&T hasn't said in which markets it plans to offer 5G. It's also not clear which phones will be compatible and how fast the service will be. The carrier was also quick to note that the service will be available only to consumers in those markets and not businesses. Instead, corporate users will be put into the "trial" category where they can test the technology in their operations.
AT&T plans to share more information on its 5G rollout in the coming weeks and months.