AT&T 5G to go live across 12 cities this week

AT&T will be launching 5G across 12 cities on December 21, offering the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot to select customers.

AT&T has announced the launch date of its 5G mobile network, with the network to go live on December 21 in parts of Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco.

The network, which is 3GPP standards-based, will additionally go live across Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose in the first half of 2019.

For the service, AT&T is providing a Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot that uses the carrier's advanced LTE and millimetre-wave (mmWave)-based 5G mobile network. Existing smartphones will be able to connect to the Netgear hotspot.

CTO Andre Fuetsch this week told ZDNet that the launch involved working alongside Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Netgear at a "dramatically accelerated" timeline.

"We were pushing ourselves at speeds we've never done before, and the whole supply chain ecosystem that we're working with, we've never worked this fast with them before," Fuetsch told ZDNet.

Some of the towers AT&T went live with were built just days ago, he said, compared to previously long cycle times with its older mobile networks. Fuetsch explained that for such a fast launch, everything had to be developed in parallel, which is why AT&T chose to work with just one vendor, one chipset manufacturer, and one device maker for the initial launch.

"When we sat down a year ago and said that we were going to get this launch by the end of 2018, we had to focus on one particular RAN vendor to make this happen, one particular device vendor, and one chip vendor. Complicating it more, given the aggressiveness of the timeline, was too much. It was already complex enough," Fuetsch told ZDNet.

AT&T will be offering the Netgear hotspot and 5G data usage for free to selected enterprise and consumer customers for the first 90 days; as of spring, customers will then be able to order the device and service for $499 upfront and $70 per month for 15GB of data.

AT&T had previously announced that it would be bringing 5G by the end of 2018 to Dallas, Atlanta, Waco, Charlotte, Raleigh, Oklahoma City, Houston, New Orleans, San Antonio, Jacksonville, and Louisville.

Across its 19 5G deployments, AT&T selected Samsung and Nokia in addition to Ericsson as its vendors, with the carrier also kitting out its foundry innovation centres in Atlanta, Plano, and Palo Alto with 5G connectivity so that it can focus on developing technologies and use cases across 5G, Internet of Things, smart cities, and VR gaming.

In September, AT&T also announced the launch of a 5G Innovation Zone in partnership with Samsung, where it said it will trial and develop manufacturing-focused technology aimed at enabling smart factories.

The innovation centre is located inside Samsung's semiconductor fabrication facility in Austin, Texas, and is hooked up to an AT&T 5G connection using Samsung's 5G networking equipment.

The carrier in October also announced completing the world's first mmWave mobile 5G browsing session on a standards-based device on a mobile 5G network, with those tests using the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot.

The hotspot utilises the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem.

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