While the “big four” US wireless service providers continue to play catch-up to their South Korean, Japanese and even Hungarian and Bulgarian counterparts in terms of both 4G LTE reliability and speed, that’s not stopping AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint from inching closer to a “true” 5G launch.

No, AT&T’s 5G Evolution service, already available in 23 major metropolitan areas, doesn’t count, and no one’s extremely excited about Verizon’s upcoming 5G residential broadband expansion either.

But AT&T is now promising it will be the “first US company to introduce mobile 5G service in a dozen markets by late 2018.” For real this time, although the actual cities looking at mobile 5G deployment not far down the line are unspecified.

A more precise timeline would also be nice, even if dates and deadlines are in a constant state of flux, with new radio standards completed by the 3GPP roughly six months ahead of schedule, for instance.

You have to wonder if perhaps the network infrastructure is evolving a little too rapidly for smartphone manufacturers, which may not be able to commercially use Qualcomm’s cutting-edge Snapdragon X50 modem anytime soon.

Laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s blazing fast and low-latency phones should not compromise the “long-term vision” of the 5G standard, according to AT&T, as the ultimate goal is to “change the way we live, work and enjoy entertainment.” We’re not just talking more immersive virtual reality experiences and 4K video here, but also driverless cars capable of making “real-time decisions” by “seeing” around corners, through other vehicles, and at longer distances.

That’s obviously still somewhat of a pipe dream, as the large majority of AT&T’s subscribers would probably be happy being able to stream Game of Thrones in HD quality without jumping through hoops.

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