AT&T trials fixed-wireless 5G in Indiana

AT&T Fiber will be delivered to four additional locations in the next year, with the carrier now using its fibre backbone to trial 5G fixed-wireless solutions in South Bend.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

AT&T has announced a trial of fixed-wireless 5G in South Bend, Indiana, utilising its full-fibre broadband network and millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum.

Unlike lab and field trials, the carrier is delivering 5G fixed-wireless services to several residential premises in the area, with one household seeing speeds of 1Gbps and latency of under 20 milliseconds.

President of AT&T Technology and Operations Melissa Arnoldi said in a blog post that this allows the customers to use "bandwidth-heavy applications simultaneously and seamlessly -- something that would be nearly impossible with current LTE technologies".

AT&T has also announced that it will be launching its full-fibre network in Bowling Green, Kentucky; Florence, South Carolina; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The carrier had previously announced the AT&T Fiber areas of Amarillo, Beaumont, and Waco, Texas; Evansville, Indiana; Gainesville and Pensacola, Florida; Springfield, Illinois; Northeast Mississippi; and Panama City.

AT&T Fiber -- which offers speeds of up to 1Gbps -- has so far reached more than 9 million areas across the United States, with plans to reach 14 million locations in 84 metro areas by mid-2019.

"Our fibre expansions across the nation will help allow AT&T to achieve its plans to be the first US carrier to provide mobile 5G service, which we plan to begin introducing in 12 cities by the end of this year," AT&T Indiana president Bill Soards said.

According to AT&T, it is also the largest fibre provider for business solutions in the nation, serving more than 1.8 million business customer locations.

Speaking to ZDNet in February, AT&T SVP of Wireless Network Architecture and Design Igal Elbaz said the carrier is ahead of the curve when it comes to 5G thanks to its focus on edge computing and network virtualisation.

The carrier is the global frontrunner in "standards-based mobile 5G", Elbaz said, after it announced in January that it will be providing non-standalone (NSA) 5G services in around 12 markets by late 2018.

"We are very uniquely positioned because of our experience in SDN, and because of what we are doing in 5G, and because of what we are doing in edge," he told ZDNet.

"And you're seeing in all three dimensions, we're very active in each one of them; we believe that we have a very unique not just opportunity but an advantage in terms of how we think about the network and how we should deploy it."

AT&T's initial 12 5G networks, the first three of which will be in Dallas, Atlanta, and Waco, will be deployed using the 5G 3GPP standards set in December.

Using the NSA specifications will put the carrier on the path to a nationwide deployment of 5G while taking advantage of its existing LTE network, Elbaz explained.

Elbaz also pointed towards AT&T's acquisition of FiberTower earlier in February, saying the mmWave spectrum gained as a result "puts us where we need to be".

"For 2018, we obviously needed the standards that just completed in December ... and now it's mainly about putting together the ecosystem or the vendors that we're working with to be able to have the device, the equipment," he said.

"We're doing this with millimetre-wave, our acquisition of FiberTower's completed, so everything's coming together at the right time. It's still a challenging goal that we've put ahead of ourselves, but we're ... confident that we're going to pull it off by the end of the year."

While these initial networks will use only mmWave spectrum, the SVP also said that AT&T's nationwide rollout will utilise its low- and mid-band spectrum in future.

Its focus on not only taking part in but also pushing 5G standards forward while trialling the technology throughout 2017 has also put it in a prime position for deployment, Elbaz added.

"This is why we think we could be first -- it's because we're very active in the standards, besides we've done a lot of trials in '16 and '17. We're very active in the standards, we believe that's the right way to do it, in fact we've expedited them," he told ZDNet.

The carrier's aim to virtualise 75 percent of its network by 2020 will also put it in a good position for 5G, Elbaz said.

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