On Saturday, AT&T let us test the speed of its 5G network on a Galaxy S10 5G phone.


Juan Garzon/CNET

It’s fitting that I tested AT&T’s 5G network at the Warner Bros. studio in Los Angeles. Both Hollywood and 5G aim to take our wildest ideas and make them real. In AT&T’s case, it’s the promise of high speed mobile data over a cellular network, which could revolutionize how we use our phones, computers and connected devices. In the little time I spent testing 5G speeds at the AT&T Shape conference at Warner Bros., I was blown away by how fast they were. They cruised past the speeds we’ve witnessed in similar early 5G tests done with Verizon and Sprint.

AT&T now becomes the third US carrier over the past few months to give us a taste of the power and potential of 5G. After a less than stellar preview in April, Verizon flexed its blazing speed muscles in May around select parts of Chicago on its 5G network. Later that month, Sprint showed off its 5G network in Dallas-Fort Worth, and it proved impressive in terms of its speeds and the size of its coverage — even if Verizon’s demo was faster. AT&T’s approach was to show off a 5G connected campus on the Warner Bros. lot. Imagine a film crew being able to instantly share footage with someone on the other side of the lot.

Armed with a Samsung Galaxy S10 5G phone, I ran a dozen speed tests around a town square backlot at Warner Bros. that was dotted with 5G millimeter wave nodes on rooftops. I was able to measure upload and download speeds and to download hours of movies and TV shows in a matter of seconds. The takeaway? AT&T 5G Plus is faster than The Flash when he has to pee. I got speeds that were consistently over 1Gbps, often hitting 1,600-1,800Mbps. That’s six times faster than my home internet.

If you haven’t heard of 5G, it’s the next generation of cellular technology and it should allow for faster data speeds with incredibly low latency. The new generation of wireless innovation could lead to a slew of uses, both practical, like downloading movies to our phones in seconds or streaming AR/VR games without lag, and hopeful, like being a harbinger for new uses and technologies that have yet to be envisioned. The latter could truly revolutionize industries, from self-driving cars to remote medical procedures.

But as I experienced on Saturday, 5G is still very much in its raw cookie dough state. Networks are still being built out, and the tests I ran served as a wonderful tease of what our future wireless connections should be able to do. Speed is just one part of what makes 5G so appealing, though. The Shape conference pointed at the true potential of 5G: its worth for businesses and developers. Interactive demos by companies like Magic Leap, Nvidia, Nokia and IBM gave me a tiny glimpse into how that 5G speed can bring creative dreams and utilities a step closer to reality.

These tests are ongoing, I’m going to be posting updates throughout the day.


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