If this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is any indication, 2017 will undoubtedly be the year that investments in 5G technologies explode. On Tuesday, Qualcomm, Ericsson, and AT&T joined forces to collaborate on new trials that could boost the development of large-scale 5G deployments.

Officially, according to a press release, the companies are working together “to conduct interoperability testing and over-the-air field trials based on the expected 5G New Radio (NR) specifications being developed by 3GPP, which will form the basis of the global standards.” The goal is to accelerate the move of the mobile ecosystem to a 5G network, with the proper infrastructure and specifications in place.

Qualcomm Technologies and Ericsson will be providing the base station prototypes, while AT&T will be handling the spectrum needs for the tests, the release stated. The trials will work along the millimeter Wave (mmWave) spectrum, the release said, specifically looking to boost “commercial deployments in the 28GHz and 39GHz bands.”

SEE: CES 2017 Special Coverage (CNET) | CES 2017 (TechRepublic) | CES 2017: The Big Trends for Business (ZDNet)

Ultimately, the companies are working to hit multi-gigabit-per-second data rates, to better prepare for technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and cloud services. According to the release, the tests will utilize “Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technology with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking techniques,” which can help sustain communication among higher frequency bands and in non-line-of-sight (NLOS), or obstructed, environments.

“5G is the greatest opportunity our industry has ever experienced. It will provide a platform for operators to address new markets, such as media, transportation and manufacturing,” Ericsson CTO Ulf Ewaldsson said in a press release. “This important 5G standard-based trial collaboration will demonstrate compliance to 3GPP and support the accelerated commercialization of the global 3GPP 5G standard.”

The trials will launch in the US in the later half of 2017, which will likely coincide with the release of the first 3GPP 5G NR specification. In a press release, Matt Grob, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Qualcomm Technologies, said that the collaboration among the firms is “critical to ensuring timely deployment of 5G networks.”

Intel is another company that focused on 5G at CES. On its CES web page, the firm mentions a future of billion of connected things communicating across a 5G network as well. At CES, the firm also announced that it would be shipping a 5G modem later this year that could be used in drones, IoT deployments, and autonomous cars. This follows a 5G test that Intel announced it would conduct with AT&T and Ericsson back in December 2016.

Optus and Huawei also completed 5G trials in late 2016, in which they recorded speeds of 35 Gbps. Around that same time, the UK government invested £1b in fiber and 5G initiatives. And, only a few months before that, the US FCC voted to open up spectrum for 5G connectivity as well.

As the world continues to move toward mobile, 5G is needed to supply the speed and bandwidth that users desires. The improved performance will also help with IoT deployments and self-driving vehicles.

Carriers and other firms have been testing 5G for years but, despite the latest trials and advances, it likely won’t be arriving any time soon. Many projections still mark 2020 as the year when 5G will make its public debut.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. At CES, Qualcomm, Ericsson, and AT&T announced a collaboration to trial new technologies for 5G mobile networks.
  2. Intel also announced a new 5G modem that can be used for drones, IoT, and autonomous vehicles.
  3. 5G will be important to many forms of communication, but it still may not arrive to the public before 2020.