AT&T starts upgrading wireless networks to 5G

By Dmitry Rashnitsov  |  Feb. 12, 2016 at 9:49 AM
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DALLAS, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- AT&T said Friday it intends to start testing next-generation 5G technology next month with faster speeds coming first to Austin, Texas.

The company unveiled plans to upgrade its wireless systems to the faster technology by the end of 2018, saying it expects to provide its current 46 million subscriber base with 10 to 100 times faster data and web connections.

"New experiences like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and more are about to test networks like never before," said John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of AT&T Technology and Operations. "These technologies will be immersive, pervasive and responsive to customers. 5G will help make them a reality. 5G will reach its full potential because we will build it on a software-centric architecture that can adapt quickly to new demands and give customers more control of their network services."

Testing of the 5G systems is expected to take about a year to debug, with another year planned for getting hardware in place across the United States and switching customers over to the updated spectrums.

AT&T says consumers will see the biggest change in how download and upload speeds are measured. They are are currently calculated in megabits, but after the switch they will be conveyed in gigabits. The company says that at 1 gigabit per second, customers can download a 30-minute TV program in less than 3 seconds.

AT&T will work with fellow technology companies Ericsson and Intel to start rolling out trial runs of the new hardware and software in the next few months.

AT&T is the second-largest wireless and data provider in the United States. It's main competitor, Verizon Wireless, in December announced a similar rollout of its 5G competitor technology.

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