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AT&T plans to introduce fifth-generation, or 5G, mobile services in a dozen markets by the end of the year, as it aims to become the first U.S. carrier to offer the high-speed wireless network.
The rollout of the AT&T 5G services was sped up by the recent completion of new standards, the company said. In December, international wireless standards body 3GPP finished the new radio specifications that define radio access to the network.
The completed standards provide the specs device and chipset manufacturers need to build 5G products capable of handling data speeds of up to 10 Gbps -- 10 to 20 times faster than the current 4G networks. In a statement, AT&T said it's "confident this latest standards milestone will allow us to bring 5G to market faster."
Verizon plan differs from AT&T 5G strategy
AT&T rivals Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint also plan to offer 5G mobile services. However, the companies, including AT&T, haven't described in detail the services they would provide.
While AT&T focuses on mobile, Verizon has aimed its initial 5G work at residential broadband services, which the company plans to launch in five markets this year. The higher-frequency range of 5G makes it possible for service providers to deliver high-speed internet to homes wirelessly.
Fifth-generation is expected to support tens of millions of new broadband connections at 50 Mbps or more. The higher speeds on fixed and mobile 5G services can power virtual reality applications, driverless cars and 4K streaming video.
While preparing AT&T 5G services for consumers, the company plans to test the technology with businesses across industries. AT&T said the lower latency of 5G would make it useful in edge computing, an architecture designed for the internet of things.
Despite the ongoing 5G rollouts, carriers are not expected to deliver wide-scale services until at least 2020. Manufacturers will need time to build support in devices, and most service providers are content to wait until they reap the full return on 4G investments.