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Uber and AT&T partner on 5G air taxis

Uber's air rideshare and cargo delivery services will be boosted by AT&T's 5G, say the companies.

Uber's flying-taxi plans may be a step closer with AT&T 5G.

AT&T will be lending a hand to get Uber's air taxi service literally off the ground by 2023, the carrier said on Tuesday.

The two companies are partnering on next-generation electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) and cargo drones using AT&T's 5G and LTE networks. They aim to launch commercial services in 2023 across Los Angeles, Dallas Fort Worth and a yet-to-be-announced international city.

5G, the next-generation mobile network, provides faster speeds, more capacity and lower latency, or the time it takes a stream or download to begin once you've requested it. AT&T initially launched 5G in December in parts of Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina; Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Waco, Texas; Jacksonville, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; and Atlanta, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Oklahoma City.

In April AT&T expanded its 5G network to parts of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego, California; Austin, Texas; Orlando, Florida; and Nashville.

Air taxis and air delivery could become "a signature use case for 5G," AT&T CTO Andre Fuetsch said Tuesday, with the new networks helping to make the services safer and more reliable.

AT&T engineers have pioneered 5G connection capabilities of more than 500 feet in urban areas, according to Tom Prevot, Uber's director of engineering for airspace systems.

In the first stage of the collaboration, the carrier said its AT&T Foundry will work with Elevate, Uber's air mobility business unit, for at least a year on assessing and enabling LTE and 5G connectivity in low-altitude autonomous drones and piloted aircraft.

In the future, the partnership could expand to using network slicing -- to give Uber's aircraft their own "slice" of the network, separated from other users -- and edge computing to improve reliability.

The project will make use of the Uber Copter pilot program in New York, as well as testing AT&T and Uber's drone concepts in San Diego.