The city of Austin, Texas will be the first to enjoy AT&T’s 5G Evolution after the telecommunications giant revealed that it had switched on the service. However, the service will be limited to subscribers who own the Samsung Galaxy S8.
According to AT&T the speeds being enjoyed on the 5G Evolution service are double what is being experienced on the company’s 4G LTE network. Earlier in the year, AT&T’s 4G LTE network was rated by OpenSignal as having average speeds of 14Mbps. It is possible for the Samsung Galaxy S8 to enjoy the fastest speeds possible because it is running on a Qualcomm chipset which boasts data transfer speeds of up to 1Gbps – the Snapdragon 835.
However, what AT&T has branded 5G is not exactly that. For one, standards on 5G have not yet been finalized and so the technology does not exist yet. Even the network technology that AT&T has deployed is not cutting edge as T-Mobile had used the same enhancements to offer its subscribers faster speeds. In actual fact, AT&T’s 5G Evolution is the existing LTE upgraded.
When 5G finally arrives in some years to come, the features will be significantly different than what is available now with speeds expected to be at the very least 1Gbps. While AT&T’s 5G Evolution is faster, it is only achieving a fraction of that.
AT&T’s marketing of LTE as 5G is similar to what the major wireless carriers in the United States were doing with their WiMax and HSPA+ technologies which they were calling 4G when they really were just enhanced 3G iterations.
SnapDragon 835 chipset
After Austin, AT&T will next roll out its 5G Evolution service to other cities such as Nashville, Tennessee; San Francisco, California; Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts and Atlanta, Georgia. By the time the service has reached all these cities, there will probably be more smartphones sporting the 835 chipset which will allow subscribers to exploit the enhancements made by AT&T.
AT&T’s announcement that it will be rolling out the 5G Evolution service follows reports that it had been outbid by Verizon in a 5G spectrum auction. It also coincides with an announcement by T-Mobile that it will begin offering LTE-U later this year. But while AT&T’s 5G Evolution is an enhancement of LTE, it is not LTE-U, a technology that was greenlit by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission earlier in the year.