Where We're Headed: Like with HD Voice, all four major carriers seem to be on different schedules for rolling out the next generation of 4G LTE: LTE Advanced, or IMT-Advanced. T-Mobile is reportedly leading the way because its newer LTE network can already support LTE Advanced, and is able to combine noncontiguous spectrum bands to create fatter pipes and facilitate Advanced's theoretical three-times-faster data speeds. The other three major national carriers all have announced or hinted at an LTE Advanced rollout later this year or early next year. But LTE Advanced is not 5G, which requires a higher-frequency spectrum and faces a plethora of technical hurdles. For instance, Samsung recently demonstrated 5G, delivering 1 Gbps in a millimeter wave (mmWave) over 28 GHz frequency bands, but propagation range is an issue, and even Samsung admits commercialization likely won't come before 2020.
Prediction: According to an International Telecommunications Union report, connection speeds attained by LTE Advanced will be akin to connecting a fiber-optic cable to your smartphone and will produce speeds 100 times faster than 3G while using far less bandwidth. As a result, downloading or streaming an HD video or other massive file to a smartphone in 2018 will be as fast and seamless as doing the same on your Ethernet-connected desktop PC.