AT&T's 'Mobile' 5G: What the Puck?

Dan Jones
1/31/2018

AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson shed a little bit more light on the -- ahem -- mobile "puck" that the operator will offer with its first mobile 5G network, expected in late 2018, on the company's earnings call Wednesday evening.

Surprise, surprise, it surely sounds like a router for distributing the 5G signal among various WiFi devices, which is fair enough, but not really a "mobile" device to my mind. Here's the full quote:

"It's not going to be a handset, because handsets just aren't available, think of this as a puck," Stephenson said on the call. Commercial 5G smartphones aren't expected until sometime in 2019. (See AT&T to Spend Trump Tax Bump on Fiber, 5G 'Foundation'.)

Call me old-fashioned -- hell, call me "Cyril" for all I care -- but I think of a moveable signal router as a classically nomadic device not a mobile device, since you're likely supporting PCs, laptops and the like with the signal from the 5G "puck."

Personally, I feel a 5G mobile device should be either be a smartphone or a tablet -- at least right now. Eventually a 5G connected car will probably count as a mobile device too of course, but not in late 2018.

Maybe I'm being too much of a stickler? Let me know in the comments below.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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DanJones
DanJones
2/1/2018 | 11:09:57 AM
Re: Shoot the puck!
I wonder if 5G even supports hockey puck handoff speeds yet ;-0
mendyk
mendyk
2/1/2018 | 10:51:51 AM
Shoot the puck!
As our frenemies north of the border know, pucks can travel at a pretty good clip -- like 100 miles per hour (sorry, 162.5 kilometers an hour) if launched from the stick of an elite hockeyer. So mobile it is.
Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown
2/1/2018 | 9:45:52 AM
Re: 5G launch devices
To me it counts as mobile. If it's in your car, or bag, or pocket, it's mobile.

When VZW launched 4G they loaned me a "puck" which we tested at highway speeds. That article is probably in the LR archives somewhere.
DanJones
DanJones
2/1/2018 | 9:43:31 AM
Re: Same with 4G
Of course, I was there for that too, but we didn't call therm mobile devices then too.
DanJones
DanJones
2/1/2018 | 9:41:59 AM
Re: 5G launch devices
No one called them "mobile devices" then though.
SystemsE76667
SystemsE76667
2/1/2018 | 7:44:10 AM
Same with 4G
When 4G launched in 2010, the first consumer devices were often cellular/WiFi hotspots due to them needing a brand new 1st gen 4G LTE baseband modem, in addition to a one for 3G. This resulted in larger, bulkier, power hungry devices (e.g. HTC Thunderbolt in early 2011).

Over the years, the technology improved, shrunk down into a single chip solution, with lower power requirements, enabling really nice mobile devices (e.g LTE-enabled iPhone 5 launched in 2012).

1st gen tech is generally not as good as 2nd, 3rd, nth iteration of it. 5G should be no different in that regard. 5G may make an appearence by end of 2018, but realistically it will be 2019, if not 2020 or later, to deliver the kind of experiences people want from it. It's also trying to do a lot more in the underlying tech like operating in the 10s of GHz (everything now is < 6GHz), large antenna arrays, Massive MIMO, etc. 

Suri Samson 
Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown
2/1/2018 | 4:28:18 AM
5G launch devices
You're a 5G stickler. A "puck" or "MiFi" style device is exactly what you would expect for an early 5G mobile launch. This is how the first 4G was introduced. Heck, the first commerical 3G device I had my hands on was a PCMCIA card for a laptop