AT&T unveils 5G Innovation Zone with Samsung

Samsung and AT&T are looking to trial smart factory technologies in their new innovation zone in Austin.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor
(Image: AT&T)

AT&T has 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 will be located inside Samsung's semiconductor fabrication facility in Austin, Texas, and will be hooked up with an AT&T 5G connection using Samsung 5G networking equipment.

AT&T and Samsung said they will use the innovation zone to trial the use of location services for improving safety; industrial Internet of Things (IoT) sensors for monitoring environmental and equipment conditions, including temperature, speed, and vibration; and improving plant security and detection response via 4K video.

"As we evolve into a smart factory, Samsung Austin Semiconductor is continuously focused on leveraging data and automation to increase system performance," Samsung Austin Semiconductor president Dr Sang-Pil Sim.

"This collaboration with Samsung Electronics America and AT&T will help us test how a 5G network can improve mobility, performance and efficiencies within our plant."

AT&T's 5G rollout will see it bring 5G by the end of 2018 to Dallas, Atlanta, Waco, Charlotte, Raleigh, Oklahoma City, Houston, New Orleans, San Antonio, Jacksonville, and Louisville.

It is additionally planning to launch mobile 5G services in parts of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose in early 2019.

Across its 19 5G deployments, AT&T said it has selected Samsung, Ericsson, and Nokia as its vendors, with the carrier to also kit out its foundry innovation centres in Atlanta, Plano, and Palo Alto with 5G connectivity to focus on developing technologies and use cases across 5G, IoT, smart cities, and VR gaming.

AT&T CTO Andre Fuetsch told ZDNet at Mobile World Congress Americas (MWCA) in Los Angeles earlier this month that his carrier did not want to "waste time or effort" on the deployment of non-standardised, fixed 5G unlike its competition, instead waiting for industry collaboration to come through ahead of launching a pure mobile 5G offering.

"We frankly didn't want to waste time and effort on a proprietary standard that frankly our competition has chosen to take," he said.

"We really wanted to go after a global standard that the entire industry could align around ... the differentiation really here is we're mobile 5G, all standards based, we're not about fixed 5G or non-standard. There's a lot of fixation on fixed right now; our track is all about mobile."

His comments followed rival carrier Verizon announcing the launch of 5G Home.

AT&T is also differentiating its offering by not only targeting larger cities but also regional and rural areas, he said.

"One of the things about our 5G deployment is we didn't want to just go into all the big cities, we want to show that we're all about America, and all communities large and small," Fuetsch told ZDNet.

AT&T rural fixed-wireless rollout hits 660K premises

AT&T also provided an update on its fixed-wireless broadband rollout across regional areas, saying it will offer this to 660,000 premises by the end of 2018 as part of a goal to reach 1.1 million in 2020.

The fixed-wireless rollout, which is using equipment from Australian company NetComm Wireless, is taking place across Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

"We now offer fixed-wireless internet service in nearly 1,000 counties across these 18 states," AT&T said.

The carrier said it is also looking to expand fixed-wireless connectivity across the citizens broadband radio service (CBRS) spectrum band, as well as continuing to deliver on Project AirGig.

Speaking to ZDNet earlier this month on Project AirGig, Fuetsch said the idea came about after deciding that broadband inside powerlines would not be fast enough in terms of end-user speeds.

"Our researchers and engineers discovered ... why not take advantage of the electrical power infrastructure -- think of power grid, think of power poles, power lines -- what if we were able to piggyback not into that infrastructure, meaning going inside the conductor wire, but around it?" he said.

"What if we could use the power lines as a wave guide to transmit very powerful high-gigabit, multi-gigabit services around the power wires ... we would inductively power this equipment, because it's carrying electricity, and why not leverage an infrastructure that is fairly standardised and fairly ubiquitous all around the country as well as the world?"

According to the CTO, AT&T can achieve tens of gigabits of bandwidth using this infrastructure, with the carrier performing trials with various power companies after getting more than 500 patents either pending or approved for the technology.

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