AT&T said this week it will add the Twin Cities to its rollout of 5G wireless services this year, though the scale of the offering won’t be clear until later.
The company, the nation’s second-largest wireless carrier by subscribers, said the upgrade to 5G would build on work that was done for the Super Bowl last year and during a test of new technology in Minneapolis in 2016.
“That allowed us to add Minneapolis to the list of markets this year,” Mark Giga, spokesman for AT&T in the Twin Cities, said Wednesday.
AT&T also said it was adding Chicago to its 2019 rollout schedule for 5G service. It had previously named Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif., to the rollout.
The company began 5G service in a dozen cities last year.
5G refers to fifth-generation wireless networks. Since the first commercial networks came about in the late 1970s, each generation adhered to technical specifications that manufacturers agreed upon, such as the speed of transmissions and place in the radio spectrum for them.
Successive generations became faster, allowing services to emerge that required the exchange of greater amounts of digital data.
5G networks download data to a phone or gadget that is in motion at about 10 times the speed of 4G.
New wireless generations tend to take years of chicken-and-egg work by wireless carriers and the makers of phones and other digital gadgets.
No major smartphone makers have announced 5G models for U.S. consumers, though some are expected late this year or in early 2020.
AT&T in 2017 upgraded portions of its 4G network with a level of service it called 5G E, with the “E” standing for “evolution.”
That brand strategy drew the ire of rivals, with Sprint even suing AT&T for confusing customers about 5G.
The company in 2016 tested its real 5G technology, called mmWave, in places around the country, including buildings in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. The company is now marketing that system as 5G+.
The mmWave system operates at a higher frequency in the radio spectrum, which means faster speeds and lower latency, or downtime.
But the signals do not travel as far, requiring more cells with transmission and reception equipment at the center of them.
Anticipating that change, wireless carriers prodded the Minnesota Legislature in 2017 to pass a measure allowing the deployment of cellular equipment that covers over smaller distances.