AT&T shows how fast US 5G could be

As 5G devices slowly approach, AT&T discusses what it's been working on in three test cities around the country.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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Scott Stein
2 min read

Your mobile speeds could be a lot faster soon thanks to 5G. How fast, exactly? According to AT&T , pretty damn fast. Specifically, around 1 gigabit per second, give or take.

AT&T has been running test trials of 5G service in preparation for deployment in 12 US markets later this year. The carrier shared its speed test results and a few other notes on Tuesday. AT&T has been testing 5G with small businesses over the last year in three separate cities: Waco, Texas; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and South Bend, Indiana.

Speed tests so far sound promising:

  • Waco's 5G speeds were 1.2Gbps from 500 feet (150 meters) over a 400MHz channel, with 9-12 millisecond latency. That was with "hundreds of simultaneous connected users," according to AT&T.
  • Kalamazoo had 1Gbps speeds at 900 feet (275 meters) in "line of sight" conditions, and no negative impact from rain or snow. AT&T notes that the signals can penetrate "significant foliage, glass and even walls" better than expected, but it's unclear what that specifically means.
  • South Bend didn't report specific speeds, but claimed "gigabit wireless speeds" in line of sight and "some nonline of sight" conditions.

To put that in perspective, my home's Wi-Fi speed is around 100Mbps, and my phone on AT&T LTE averages around 25Mbps in New York.

In January, AT&T said that it plans to launch its mobile 5G network in a dozen markets in late 2018, along with a phone that will actually be able to use it (few current phones can).

There are still a lot of unknowns, including how much 5G will cost consumers, and how extra users will impact speeds. And, how good 5G coverage will be as compared to LTE in areas that have it, or how reliable it will be versus LTE. 5G is being pitched as a key technology for self-driving cars , mobile VR and a lot more. At the least, it sounds like 5G could be a lot better at being a fast way to get online.