Subscribe

Why AT&T and Verizon's 5G could improve cars as much as it will phones

AT&T and Verizon are beginning tests of 5G wireless technology, which promises speeds 10 to 100 times faster than 4G. 5G networks could eventually enable self-driving cars, the Internet of Things, and more.

  • close
    AT&T said this week that it will begin testing a next-gen 5G network this year. Here, an AT&T logo is seen on a storefront in Philadelphia on October 17, 2012.
    Matt Rourke/AP/File
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Within a few years, wireless speeds could be fast enough to let people download movies on their tablets in seconds and hold video chats with perfect clarity.

5G technology, the successor to 4G LTE, is being tested in labs already, and once it’s deployed, it promises to be between 10 and 100 times faster than current wireless networks.

This week, AT&T told tech business site Re/code that it will begin testing 5G technology early this year in the lab, followed by tests in Austin, Texas, to see how 5G handles weather and environmental conditions. Verizon is also testing 5G technology in cooperation with Nokia, Samsung, and other partners, and expects to begin real-world tests this year, as well.

Recommended: 40 iPhone tips and tricks everyone should know

At this point, “5G” is still just a shorthand way of describing a newer, faster wireless network – the industry hasn’t agreed on a set of standards or technical specifications to determine what is and isn’t 5G. (For years, there was no standard definition of “4G,” either, since carriers used the term to describe any improvements over previous wireless network speeds. Eventually “4G” came to be synonymous with current LTE technology.)

A 5G network has a theoretical speed of 10 gigabits per second, though in practice that number will be much lower due to wind, rain, atmospheric conditions, network congestion, and lots of other factors.

5G networks will also have much lower latency than 4G networks, meaning that there will be very little delay in sending data between devices. That’s important for applications such as video chatting and (eventually) driverless car communication, which require near-instantaneous transmission of information. 5G networks are likely to rely, at least in part, on high-frequency “millimeter wave” transmissions that can carry data at tremendous speeds, but that are not particularly resilient to interference from weather or other radio waves. 

The new technology won’t just mean faster downloads on smartphones, though – carriers and hardware makers expect that it will become the backbone of the Internet of Things, allowing devices ranging from cars to home appliances to municipal sensors to exchange data. Faster, more reliable wireless coverage would allow our light bulbs and refrigerators and door locks to communicate with one another, performing actions automatically according to our preferences. And “smart cities” could be outfitted with small wireless sensors in pipes, pavement, and streetlights, automatically alerting workers of needed repairs or alerting police to a crime in progress.

5G won't be commercially available in the US until 2020 at the earliest, but companies elsewhere are pursuing a more aggressive schedule. Korea hopes to have a 5G network up in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, and China and Europe are pushing ahead on 5G technology as well.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK