When they announced 5G networks a while back, they made them sound like these magical, futuristic things that were going to somehow make everyone’s lives instantly better. The reality of it is that these changes are going to take time, quite a bit of time. And no matter what you hear, there are no 5G networks right now.
Take yourself back to a time when 4G LTE was announced. Almost every carrier out there was like: “We have 4G!” Except, it wasn’t LTE, it was mostly variants of HSPA or EVDO. Or comparable technologies that could be passed off as the new hotness of 4G Long Term Evolution.
Well, 5G is going to be the same thing. I have a feeling AT&T is going to be in our sights plenty, but they’re the first offender of marketing bullshit. “5G Evolution”, as they call it, isn’t anything even remotely close to 5G. For one, the standard “5G” hasn’t even been fully developed, let alone ratified as an actual standard for that matter.
Secondly, in 2-3 years when 5G is standardized, the roll-out is going to be painfully slow. We expect things to happen instantly now-a-days. Tap this and we want that to load. Click here and we want to instantly be taken there. If you ever want a fun read just head to any comment board where people are complaining about their ISP’s speeds or reliability.
The point is: it’s going to take a good 5 years before any of these new networks are established and a few more years after that for fine-tuning. That’s because 5G requires an almost ground-up approach to deploying and networks will need time to implement those infrastructure changes.
So, even though AT&T may be using the term “5G”, they do not currently operate an actual 5G network in the wild. Nobody does.
Instead, they’re using technologies such as 4×4 MIMO and 256 QAM. While MIMO and 256 QAM are pretty technical, essentially 4×4 MIMO allows for simultaneous 4-way input and output (Multiple Input Multiple Output; MIMO) while 256 QAM is a signal modulation method which increases the amount of data that can be transmitted using a single waveform (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation).
T-Mobile launched the very same technologies in September of 2016. Verizon also launched these, but they used the marketing campaign of LTE-A or LTE Advanced (which is what it really is, so there’s that).
While more speed is always a good thing, just don’t buy into marketing stunts trying to sell you technology that isn’t really what they claim it is. T-Mobile has said they want to roll out 5G by 2019 and a nationwide 5G network by 2020, while Verizon has been busy testing the new soon-to-be standard as well.
Eventually, every carrier will have to make the move, but that time is not yet upon us. So until then, don’t be taken in by silly marketing stunts.