Over the past few months, a lot of discussion has surrounded the future of cellular technology, the 5th generation, or 5G networks. Intel was showing off the possibilities at CES 2018, with their entire booth being powered by a localized 5G network. At the Winter Olympic Games, Samsung used the opportunity to show off the possibilities with localized 5G setup around the venues and the Olympic Village. While it's clear that the technology is ready for small-form setups, a lot of question has surrounded whether or anyone is ready for a large deployment test.
It would appear that AT&T, one of the largest mobile providers in the US, is ready to see what happens when an entire city is lit up with the LTE replacement. While the 5G roadmap has been in place since 2016, almost exactly 2 years later the company has announced the first of their 12 test cities, and one of them might surprise you. In addition to Dallas, Texas (9th largest city) and Atlanta, Georgia (38th largest city, major travel hub), they will also being testing in Waco, Texas (197th largest city). Obviously, one of these things is not like the others, with Waco being a bit of a surprise test site.
It does make sense to want to test the technology in a smaller location and not just a larger city, for a variety of reasons. While stress tests on the towers is an important aspect of the process, it is also important to see whether or not idle time causes any issues. If the network is understressed, it could potentially cause its own issues. In addition, a smaller city, like Waco, could allow them to run larger device tests without as much disruption to the existing network.
Just because AT&T wants to begin the rollout of 5G in a big way, that doesn't mean that you will have any access to it for a while. Even if you are in a launch city, and the technology becomes publicly available, you will still need a few things. Most importantly, you will need a 5G-capable device. If you are an Apple customer, it will likely take several generations before they adopt the technology, based on their speed to adopt 3G and 4G radios. The best bet for getting a 5G compatible device will be a Samsung, as Samsung is involved with developing the standard, and has been demoing the technology at the Olympics.
5G networks are designed for more than just phones, though. With lower power consumption and much higher bandwidth capabilities, 5G could mean that your next-generation smarthome and other IoT devices could have radios built-in, meaning that Wi-Fi setup could be a thing of the past. It would seem that something as simple as bandwidth upgrades could be this impactful, but 5G could change the way computing is done.