AT&T Mobility chief: Don’t get too excited about superfast 5G wireless yet

In response to Verizon’s plans to move to 5G, AT&T’s Glenn Lurie says he prefers to wait until the industry can agree on what the technology will look like before making any proclamations.

AT&T is not impressed with 5G wireless technology. At least, not this soon.

Verizon last week made waves when it said it would conduct field tests using 5G technology next year and committed to “some level of commercial deployment” in 2017. That timeline is significantly ahead of the 2020 time frame that many in the industry believe will mark the beginning of broader adoption of 5G, which could bring dramatically higher speeds to consumers.

But AT&T wants to pump the brakes on any excitement.

“We’re not at a point to be making promises or commitments to customers as to what 5G is,” Glenn Lurie, chief executive of AT&T Mobility, said in an interview at the CTIA Wireless industry trade show last week. “We as an industry have been really good at overpromising and underdelivering when it comes to new technology.”

The comments come amid an intensifying battle over the perception of wireless network superiority, a key weapon for preserving customer loyalty or picking off subscribers from rivals. Verizon is looking to push the technology for faster wireless technology and better coverage. But AT&T, which has made strides catching up to Verizon with its 4G coverage, believes that it’s too early to talk publicly about the technology.

AT&T’s contention is that the technology behind 5G is still in its infancy and is in such an early stage that no one can agree on what it will look like. Without defined industry standards to which everyone can adhere, it would premature to talk about the potential benefits.

“Let’s make sure that before we start hyping what it’s going to be, that those standards are agreed to,” Lurie said.

Verizon defended its announcement and touted the coalition of equipment vendors and industry players it has created to help it move to 5G.

“Innovation happens when you’re willing to look at things a little differently than others, and you’re willing to put in the hard work to make your vision a reality,” said a Verizon spokesman.

Many carriers are working on various tests of 5G technology, Lurie said, although he declined to comment on whether AT&T was one of them. He added that AT&T was working with the industry to figure out a standard for the technology.

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