AT&T has announced that Dallas, Atlanta, and Waco will be the first cities across the United States to receive its 5G services, with the carrier also opening a 5G innovation centre and test lab in Austin.
"We are working with our vendors on an aggressive schedule to help ensure customers can enjoy 5G when we launch the network this year. We will add more 5G-capable mobile devices and smartphones in early 2019 and beyond," the company said.
For the 5G deployments, AT&T said it would be using the non-standalone (NSA) 5G 3GPP standards set in December, and will deploy it over millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum before adding additional spectrum bands in future.
"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," AT&T senior vice president of Wireless Network Architecture and Design Igal Elbaz said.
"What this means for our customers in these cities is that they will be the very first to access this next generation of wireless services."
AT&T, which has also announced a partnership with Ericsson for professional services capabilities for Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, said it will be announcing additional 5G cities for 2018 over the next few months.
The carrier added that it is "aggressively" aiming to virtualise 75 percent of its network by 2020.
"The experience we've gained by leading the industry transformation to network virtualisation and software control will help our customers to get the most out of 5G. Ultimately, this means new experiences with augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR), future autonomous cars, and delivery drones," the carrier added.
"In order for these experiences to become reality, you need mobile 5G powered by SDN and edge computing. We're making the cloud smarter, faster, and local."
Its new 5G lab in Austin, meanwhile, will enable the carrier to conduct further tests on standards-based 5G including what it called Advanced 5G NR Testbed Systems (ANTS).
"The lab will be where our engineers can build and test creative solutions and run 'stress tests' simulating real-world customer experiences with mobile 5G network equipment and devices from multiple vendors before they are rolled out to customers. This lab is also equipped with an outdoor 5G testbed to trial a variety of 5G applications and real-world use cases," AT&T explained.
"ANTS is a first-of-its kind 5G testbed system, and is proprietary to AT&T. ANTS will let us test unique and forward-looking features on a simulated 5G network for eventual standardisation and use on our commercial network. By re-creating a physical 5G radio environment in our labs, we have greater control over what is deployed to customers.
"Technologies like ANTS will let us add advanced 5G capabilities to our network beyond baselines set by standards."
AT&T had last month announced that it will be providing 5G services in around 12 markets by late 2018.
AT&T's 5G Evolution network, which involves the use of 4G-Advanced technology, has been deployed in 23 metro areas: Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, San Antonio, and Houston, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Hartford and Bridgeport, Connecticut; Buffalo, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Fresno, California; Greenville, South Carolina; Indianapolis, Indiana; Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee; New Orleans, Louisiana; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"While we are rolling out mobile 5G in 2018, we also plan to continue to enhance our network with 5G Evolution technology in hundreds of additional metro areas," the mobile carrier said in January.
"We will give you more options to access our latest wireless network offers by making additional 5G Evolution-capable devices available throughout the year."
AT&T had in December kicked off its biggest 5G trial network in Waco, Texas, using mmWave spectrum and 5G radio and antenna prototypes after announcing in August that it would expand its 5G trials to three more cities by the end of 2017 in Waco, as well as in South Bend, Indiana, and Kalamazoo, Michigan.
For those three trial networks, AT&T is using Ericsson's 28GHz radios, virtualised RAN (vRAN), and full 5G virtualised core; Intel's 5G mobile trial platform; Samsung's 5G router, 5G RFIC chipset, virtualised core, and vRAN; and Nokia's 5G equipment and solutions.
AT&T launched its 5G Evolution upgrade on its network in Austin, Texas in June, followed by Indianapolis, Indiana, in July.
At the end of December, AT&T also combined with Ericsson on 5G NR interoperability trials.
The trials also included T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint, along with Australian mobile carrier Telstra; Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo; Korean carrier SK Telecom; and European carriers Vodafone and Orange.
The live lab demonstrations saw the companies utilise the 3.6GHz and mmWave 28GHz spectrum frequencies using Ericsson's pre-commercial 5G base stations and Qualcomm's 5G NR UE prototypes.
AT&T will deploy 5G services in a dozen markets by late 2018, with plans to extend its 5G Evolution advanced LTE from 23 to 'hundreds' of metro areas while also expanding AT&T Fiber to 82 metros by mid-2019.
Magnolia Market in Waco will be one of the biggest testbeds for AT&T's 5G network, with the carrier looking to expand to additional Texan businesses, homes, churches, and education facilities.
AT&T has spent more than $40 million improving its network throughout Minneapolis ahead of Super Bowl LII, including antenna upgrades in the stadium and city.
The carrier also said it began first phase testing at its edge computing zone in Palo Alto, Calif.
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