The wireless industry is highly skeptical about AT&T's promise of a commercially viable and truly wireless 5G mobile network that the company claims will be launched in late 2018. T-Mobile's executives have been particularly dismissive of such promises, with Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray stating that no 5G-ready smartphones have yet been released and that AT&T is completely mum about how its users will be required to access the unspecified next-generation network in the first place. The Dallas, Texas-based wireless carrier told Mobile World Live that it will release a 5G-enabled device in time for the launch of its network but has yet to even elaborate whether it intends to introduce a smartphone or a tablet. While the latter product category is currently facing obsolescence and has lost a lot of momentum simultaneously with the rise of phablets, Mr. Neville believes AT&T's first 5G device will be a tablet, though his reasoning remains unclear.
The technical background of AT&T's next wireless solution is also an unknown, save for the promise that it will be based on the 3GPP's recently defined 5G standard; the company's 5G-related R&D efforts previously encompassed 39GHz and 28GHz bands but its ability to use them on a large scale partially relies on its proposed acquisition of Fiber Tower that has yet to be cleared by all competent regulators. Mr. Ray predicted the wireless carrier will likely rely on the 39GHz band, i.e. millimeter wave spectrum, adding that it will probably offer its network in extremely limited areas. Some of his other criticism of AT&T's vague announcement was communicated via Twitter and can be seen below.
Given the controversy surrounding AT&T's recent decision to advertise its 4G LTE network as 5G Evolution despite the fact that its offering isn't related to 5G in any way, some industry watchers are still speculating that the company's late 2018 launch may actually star a 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) service similar to the one Verizon is planning to commercialize in the second half of the year. Even though AT&T's representatives said the upcoming service will be "mobile," the company's 5G Evolution stunt is leaving some people skeptical about the accuracy of such claims. According to recent estimates from Qualcomm and other telecom giants, commercial 5G deployment in the United States will start in the first half of 2019, whereas such networks will be available on a national level come 2020.
Where’s the news @ATT on devices, bands, or cities? Is this only mmW in select geographies? No real news there – just a hotspot device not cabled to a window or wall.
— Neville (@NevilleRay) January 4, 2018