AT&T expands 5G trials to three more cities

AT&T has announced expanding its 5G fixed-wireless trials to the cities of South Bend, Waco, and Kalamazoo in partnership with Ericsson, Nokia, Intel, and Samsung.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

AT&T has announced that it will be expanding its fixed-wireless 5G trials to three more cities by the end of the year in partnership with Samsung, Intel, Ericsson, and Nokia.

Now slated to receive AT&T's pre-5G fixed-wireless coverage by the end of 2017 will be customers in South Bend, Indiana; Waco, Texas; and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

For the three trials, 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.

According to AT&T, which last month reported Q2 revenue of $39.8 billion, its small business and consumer trials in Austin have given it "new insights into millimetre-wave (mmWave) performance and propagation".

"In Austin, we see all types of weather and substantial foliage; taking our fixed-wireless 5G trials out of the lab and into the real world helps us learn important factors about mmWave and 5G," AT&T Wireless Network Architecture and Design senior vice president Marachel Knight said.

These trials have seen speeds of up to 1Gbps and latency of less than 10 milliseconds, AT&T said.

AT&T launched its 5G Evolution upgrade on its network in Austin, Texas, in June, followed by Indianapolis, Indiana last month.

The network will be rolled out to 20 other metro areas by the end of 2017, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, and Nashville.

AT&T had previously said that the 5G Evolution networks involve upgraded cell towers with LTE-Advanced technologies including 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), 4x4 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO), and 3x carrier aggregation.

It is aiming to deploy LTE-Licence Assisted Access (LTE-LAA) and 4x carrier aggregation on its network by the end of the year, through which it attained speeds of 750Mbps during a trial in San Francisco.

The carrier had previously said it invested over $350 million in its Indianapolis networks over the past three years, launching a new distributed antenna system (DAS), increasing network capacity, and installing small cells, which serve as miniature base stations.

"We're excited to launch these new, faster, wireless technologies in Indianapolis as we march towards standards-based mobile 5G," Knight said last month.

AT&T is also using fixed-wireless deployments to improve access to broadband across regional areas of the United States under a partnership with NetComm Wireless announced last month.

According to NetComm Wireless, which also supplies fixed-wireless equipment to Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), it will provide AT&T with outdoor wireless antennas enabling connectivity speeds of at least 10Mbps to under-served premises across 18 states.

AT&T and NetComm Wireless have already deployed their first phase of fixed-wireless throughout the states of Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

While AT&T's plans for 5G have seen it "aggressively deploying equipment" as well as investing in spectrum and technology, it was outbid in May by rival operator Verizon, which acquired Straight Path Communications and its valuable portfolio of mmWave spectrum for $3.1 billion -- almost double AT&T's original $1.6 billion bid.

Straight Path owns 735 mmWave licences in the 39GHz spectrum band, and 133 licences in the 28GHz band.

Verizon is similarly rolling out a series of 5G trial networks across the United States, in May announcing the deployment of its first network in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which consists of a Cisco Ultra Services Platform 5G virtualised packet core with Cisco Advanced Services; and Samsung's vRAN solutions, 5G radio base stations, and 5G routers.

Verizon is set to deploy pre-commercial 5G trial networks in 10 more US cities with Cisco, Ericsson, Intel, LG, Nokia, and Qualcomm by mid-2017: Atlanta, Georgia; Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton, Massachusetts; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Miami, Florida; Sacramento, California; Seattle, Washington; and Washington DC.

Verizon also trialled 5G during the Indianapolis 500 motor race in partnership with Intel and Ericsson in May, using technologies such as beam forming and beam tracking to attain speeds in excess of 6Gbps.

Verizon senior solutions architect Chris Painter told ZDNet that interoperability is "key" to 5G.

"Cisco's very beneficial solution, where you can assist the virtualisation for the packet core [and] being able to interoperate with our 5G vendor at the other end of the solution, that interoperability ... is very key," Painter told ZDNet.

"It's going to be a multi-vendor solution, so we need to have that interoperability."

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