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AT&T Joining Verizon in 5G Race

Waiting around for a video to finish buffering while you're out and about may soon become a thing of the past. AT&T is about to start testing speedy new fifth-generation (5G) networking technology that could enable super-fast data transfers, making it the second American carrier to do so. 

AT&T said that it will start testing 5G technology this year, and unveiled a roadmap on how it intends to conduct its trials in a way that it will "be able to pivot to compliant commercial deployments once 5G technology standards are set." Ma Bell said it intends to collaborate with Ericsson and Intel to work on the new solutions in its labs starting in the second quarter of this year, moving on to outdoor tests and trials in the summer. 

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AT&T's testing could provide 5G wireless connectivity to fixed locations in Austin before the end of the year, which would make it the second carrier to do so. Verizon announced last year that it will test its 5G system this year, starting in test environments in San Francisco and Massachusetts.

5G networking is expected to enable transfer speeds of 100 to 1,000 times the speed of 4G LTE, which means you could potentially download a full-length movie in a few seconds. 5G will also link all sorts of smart devices, from fitness trackers to cars, to cellular data.

The industry-held belief is that 5G networking will be commercially available in the U.S. in 2020, but Verizon is expecting to get a head start by offering "some level of commercial deployment" by 2017. 

The remaining Big Four carriers -- Sprint and T-Mobile -- have not revealed similar plans, but with AT&T and Verizon already having done so, we wouldn't be surprised if they make their plans known soon.