AT&T says its 5G wireless trials have been producing speeds of more than a gigabit per second from millimeter wave frequencies, even in bad weather and—in some cases—without a line-of-sight connection. Latencies have been as low as 9ms, the company said.
Current-generation 4G LTE networks generally use frequencies below 1GHz, which are best for covering long distances and penetrating obstacles such as building walls. 5G networks are expected to rely heavily on millimeter wave signals—30GHz and above—which are easily blocked by obstacles and generally require line-of-sight connections.
AT&T and other carriers plan to use 5G for smartphones connecting directly to mobile networks and for fixed wireless connections in areas that lack fiber-to-the-premises or cable. There is a lot of available millimeter wave spectrum, which means carriers can easily ramp up the bits per second. But there will be challenges in actually getting that data to smartphones when there are obstacles between the cell sites and handheld devices.
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