5G is going to take centre stage next year as device manufacturers and telcos will rush to offer the next mobile generation technology to the masses. In the US, carrier AT&T is doing something rather sneaky which will enable “5G” in existing 4G coverage areas.
According to AT&T, their customers will start seeing “5G E” on their smartphones and this is their first step towards 5G. They added that they have already made improvements on their existing 4G LTE network to enable faster speeds for the latest devices.
To do this, AT&T has upgraded their network to enable carrier aggregation with 4×4 MIMO while enabling 256 QAM to increase its data throughput. To sum it up, AT&T is calling their faster LTE-Advanced network as 5G. They mentioned that 5G E will be available in over 400 markets by end 2018 and you’ll know that you’re getting it when your phone displays 5G E.
So far, it is believed that this new label will be appearing on selected Android devices and it isn’t clear if Apple will support this 5G moniker on their devices. If you look at their past models, Apple is expected to take their time with 5G. When the first iPhone was launched, it didn’t support 3G and then 4G was only supported much later in Malaysia starting with the iPhone 5 via a software update.
This isn’t the first time a US carrier has relabelled their existing technology as something newer. During the early days of 4G, T-Mobile had marketed their HSPA+ network as 4G. On paper, HSPA+ could deliver download speeds of up to 42Mbps, which is faster than actual speeds you can get on early 4G networks.
For Malaysia, it will take a couple of years for 5G to be rolled out. Commercial 5G trials are expected to commence in 2019 and the Malaysian government has yet to offer spectrum for telcos to operate 5G. On top of that, standardisation for 5G needs to mature and we also need a variety of compatible devices before we can see a mass rollout for 5G.