Verizon to start testing 5G in the U.S. in 2016

Samsung is one of Verizon's partners in testing a 5G network in the U.S.(Credit: Samsung)

We usually talk about seeing "5G," the next big jump in mobile data speeds, coming online around 2020 or later. But Verizon Wireless says it's ready to start testing its next generation network in 2016.

The largest wireless carrier in the U.S. is teaming up with Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung to develop and test the technology in sandboxed environments at the company's "innovation centers" in San Francisco and Waltham, Massachusetts as well as launch field trials next year.

"5G is no longer a dream of the distant future," said Verizon Executive Vice President Roger Gurnani in a statement. "We feel a tremendous sense of urgency to push forward."

Part of that urgency has to do with an anticipated explosion of connected devices as the Internet of Things is expected to grow rapidly in coming years. Though logic dictates smart home devices will rely on Wi-Fi more than mobile data, connected cars, standalone wearables and other unforeseen devices could be playing into Verizon's forecast.

If Verizon is able to roll out 5G as quickly as it did with its 4G network, which started sandboxed development in 2008 before launching its LTE service in 39 major American cities at the end of 2010, we could actually see the faster network before 2020.

While the announcement from Verizon doesn't mention any specific target data transfer speeds for the next generation network, it says the expected benefits of 5G will include "about 50 times the throughput of current 4G LTE (and) latency in the single milliseconds."

Anytime you improve the status quo by greater than an order of magnitude, that's awesome, but it's worth noting that 50 times Verizon's own claimed 4G download speeds of 12 Mbps would not be as fast as the gigabit speeds normally associated with the promise of 5G.

Perhaps it's fortunate, then, that one of Verizon's 5G partners is Samsung, which is already working on technology it says could enable speeds reaching into the tens of gigabits per second.

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