CES 2019: Wireless Companies Put Their Big 5G Gambles on Display

5G may one day handle tasks like guiding driverless cars, but today’s consumers are more concerned with making their phones work faster, according to Bloomberg. And that’s not lost on mobile carriers headed to CES in Las Vegas.

In coming weeks, AT&T will introduce an interim “5G E” service that promises 50% faster internet speeds in many places. Verizon. was out first in September with a 5G home service, pitching ultra-high-definition TV and speeds up to 20 times faster.

Whether it’s the more-distant future or improvements just around the corner, CES is the place for carriers to connect with investors and members of the media who’ll carry their message to consumers. Verizon and AT&T have bet their futures on the next generation of wireless technology and are eager to show what it might look like.

Full-fledged 5G networks are still more than a year away, but selling investors on the idea is every bit the game, even if it means slapping that label on technology that isn’t really fifth generation. AT&T is on a multistep path to 5G. Starting this spring, it will rebrand recent models of 4G Android phones as 5G Evolution or “5G E,” a transitional step intended to reflect speed and capacity upgrades to the carrier’s current network.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg hosted his company’s CES demonstration and tried to show, through several examples, how 5G is entirely different from current technology. He demonstrated how the new technology can virtually eliminate latency enabling services that aren’t possible now. Beyond speed, Verizon wants to show how 5G networks can support 200 times more connections than 4G or more within the same service area.

Today, AT&T plans to reveal deals to help cities automate some services and embed more communications technology in cars, steps that are consistent with its slower run-up to genuine 5G technology. Late Monday, the company said it will work with Toyota and telecom provider KDDI to provide customers with services like Wi-Fi hot spots, remote starting and remote diagnostics on its existing network.

In addition to serving as a theme for this year’s tech show, 5G shoulders some other heavy burdens, including in the area of national security. China, for example, has made leading transition to 5G a priority and that’s set off warning bells among U.S. executives and the military.

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