An attendee uses an controller to interface with a 5G holographic video at the GSMA Mobile World Congress Americas at the LA Convention Center in Los Angeles, Calif., on September 12. Photo by Mike Nelson/EPA-EFE
Dec. 21 (UPI) -- AT&T's mobile 5G service will go live Friday in 12 U.S. cities, making the Dallas-based telecommunications company the first in the country to offer the next generation mobile network.
"This is the first taste of the mobile 5G era," AT&T Labs and chief technology officer Andrew Fuetsch said in a statement. "Being first, you can expect us to evolve very quickly. It's early on the 5G journey and we're ready to learn fast and continually iterate in the months ahead."
Users will need a mobile 5G hotspot device to access the faster Internet service on their existing phones, until 5G-capable devices are available.
AT&T and Verizon are competing to see who can launch 5G networks first -- not just in the United States, but the world. While AT&T is focusing first on mobile 5G, Verizon has already launched home-based 5G networks in select markets, a wireless service that could compete with cable broadband speeds.
5G technology rapidly increases data speeds and lower latency for virtual reality, augmented reality, self-driving cars and other innovations.
"5G is a global race right now," Scott Dunaway, a spokesman for the Texas 5G Alliance, a coalition working on bringing 5G to the state, told UPI. "It's changing so quickly right now. Cities are really working very hard. If they haven't figured this out now, then they're trying to work toward a resolution. If they have figured it out, then they're trying to expedite it."
Verizon's service started in Sacramento, Houston, Los Angeles and Indianapolis. AT&T's mobile 5G will launch Friday in Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, Jacksonville and eight other U.S. markets. A second rollout is planned for next year that will include Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The 5G revolution will focus on dense urban areas first, Dunaway said.
The faster speeds offered by 5G will be apparent in various web-based applications, like virtual reality, in-home tele-medicine, virtual surgeries, holograms and other uses that haven't yet been conceived, Dunaway said. Before 4G LTE launched, for example, no one could have predicted a company like Uber and all the geolocation-based services that have spawned from that, he noted.
"We know the outcomes will be transformational, we just don't know what they're going to be yet," Dunaway said. "The possibilities are endless."
As its name indicates, 5G is the fifth generation mobile network. The first, 1G, started the cellular revolution in 1979 -- followed by 2G in 1991, 3G in the early 2000s and 4G in the early 2010s. Some experts predict 5G is the last network needed for the foreseeable future.
While consumers wait for more announcements from major wireless carriers, Farooq Khan and his team of about 30 employees toil away in a nondescript strip center office in Allen, Texas, just north of Dallas, where they're building equipment that will beam 5G wavelengths to the next generation of wireless devices.
"This is the infrastructure that you won't see but this is what will making all that happen," Khan told UPI.
Khan said his goal is to make PHAZR the source for U.S.-made wireless infrastructure. PHAZR is the first 5G solutions company to receive certification for 5G-millimeter wave radios from the Federal Communications Commission and the equivalent entity in the European Union.
But they lack the scale to develop equipment fast enough for market deployment. Right now, they're focused on pilot projects near Allen and other areas.
JMA Wireless, which acquired PHAZR this month, specializes in next-generation in-building and outdoor wireless systems.
"We needed a partner to help us bring our product to market," Khan said. "With JMA Wireless, we can offer a complete suite of products. "We become a wholly owned subsidiary of JMA so the entity still exists and we are going to continue with the brand."
New York-based JMA said it plans to double down with U.S.-based innovation in 5G technology.
"Combining JMA Wireless and PHAZR, the world's most advanced 4G LTE & 5G RAN technology, is now in one U.S.-based company, providing mobile network operators a new, flexible option that can deploy 5G across any part of their footprint -- including the hard to reach, less accessible areas today," JMA chief executive John Mezzalingua said in a statement.
PHAZR will offer three products for different applications -- RABACK devices to be deployed on cell towers, utility poles and street lights; STRAND to be hung on utility poles closer to end users; and the IOTA deployment in office buildings, stadiums and other large places that millimeter beams can't penetrate, Khan said.
"All of this capability comes in the package the size of a laptop computer, opening deployment possibilities not available in the market today," PHAZR said. "For 5G to become a truly transformative technology, it must be flexible in frequency support and compact enough to deploy in any scenario, indoors or out."