AT&T says it plans to provide mobile 5G services in a dozen cities by the end of 2018, including parts of Dallas, Atlanta, and Waco, TX. The company has plans to announce additional cities over the coming months.
This follows AT&T's announcement last month about its 2018 5G service plans, alongside expanding the reach of AT&T Fiber for consumers and businesses, and of G.fast (see "AT&T plans to expand reach of 5G, AT&T Fiber, and G.fast").
"After significantly contributing to the first phase of 5G standards, conducting multi-city trials, and literally transforming our network for the future, we're planning to be the first carrier to deliver standards-based mobile 5G – and do it much sooner than most people thought possible," said Igal Elbaz, senior vice president, wireless network architecture and design. "Our mobile 5G firsts will put our customers in the middle of it all."
AT&T initially launched its 5G Evolution in the spring of 2017, a technology the company says it will broadly offer by the end of 2018. Based on 3GPP standards, AT&T's initial mobile 5G deployments in 2018 will operate over mmWave spectrum. The company says it will use mmWave to deliver mobile 5G in some locations, and then will deploy the technology on additional spectrum bands.
AT&T is implementing 5G in the initial deployments in a manner that will ensure integration with existing LTE technologies using the non-standalone configuration outlined in 3GPP release 15. The equipment being deployed on AT&T's LTE network will enable straightforward migration to 5G, the company says. It first launched the LTE-Licensed Assisted Access (LTE-LAA) technologies in parts of Indianapolis, and then in areas of Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
AT&T is also focusing on delivering a virtualized and software-defined network (SDN) enabling customers to deploy and protect new network applications faster than with a hardware-based model, the company affirms. AT&T plans to virtualize 75% of its network by 2020 as well, and expects to reach theoretical peak speeds of multiple gigabits per second on devices via mobile 5G.
To meet customers demand for mobile 5G powered by SDN and edge computing, AT&T will apply insights from 5G field trials with mmWave in mid-2016, and tested 5G service with residential customers, small and large businesses, and retail locations to this year's deployments.
AT&T is the only U.S. carrier to announce plans for providing standards-based, mobile 5G technology to its customers in 2018, the company attests. According to AT&T, it is developing an accelerated schedule to ensure 5G mobile deployments when the network is launched this year, and plans to add more 5G capable mobile devices and smartphones as early as 2019.
AT&T is opening a new 5G lab in Austin, TX for running tests to meet this schedule. The lab's engineers can build and run "stress tests" with mobile 5G network equipment and devices from multiple vendors before deployment. The lab also features an outdoor 5G testbed to trial various 5G applications and real-world use cases, AT&T says.
The Advanced 5G NR Testbed System (ANTS) is one of the in-house projects built at the lab, and will enable AT&T to test forward-looking features on a simulated 5G network for eventual standardization and commercial network use. ANTS is a first-of-its-kind 5G testbed system and is proprietary to AT&T, and will enable AT&T to add improved 5G capabilities to its network, the company asserts.
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