AT&T outlines business, residential tests of 5G for 2017, including fixed and mobile versions

AT&T's Brian Daly presents at the 5G North America show.

AUSTIN, Texas—AT&T is planning to conduct a range of 5G network tests this year, including tests involving enterprises, residential users, and fixed and mobile iterations of 5G technology.

AT&T’s Brian Daly outlined the operator’s plans here during a presentation at the 5G North America trade show. He noted that the operator has already conducted a range of 5G tests, and that AT&T will continue to test the technology in the months and years ahead with an eye toward launching a “standards compliant” commercial 5G network, offering mobile services, in the 2020-2021 timeframe.

Specifically, Daly said that AT&T conducted a “friendly user” trial with enterprises last year, which tested streaming and conferencing experiences with vendors Qualcomm and Intel. He said the carrier plans to conduct a friendly user trial in the second quarter of this year with residential users and small- and medium-sized businesses, offering fixed broadband services in the 28 GHz band.

Further, Daly said that this month AT&T will begin its previously announced test of streaming its DirecTV Now video service over a fixed 5G connection, which he noted will include multiple sites and devices. He said that test is geared toward seeing how millimeter-wave technology handles heavy video traffic.

Additionally, Daly said AT&T will team with Qualcomm and Ericsson to test mobile and fixed 5G services in the second half of this year, which he said will be AT&T’s first test of the 5G New Radio specification from the 3GPP. That test will run through both the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands.

AT&T’s 5G testing plans are particularly noteworthy considering the company just last week lost Straight Path to rival Verizon. AT&T initially sought to acquire Straight Path, which holds an average of 620 MHz in the top 30 U.S. markets with 39 GHz and 28 GHz licenses, for $1.6 billion. But Verizon launched a competing offer and eventually won the bidding war with a total offer of $3.1 billion. Verizon has said it will use Straight Path’s spectrum holdings to offer 5G services.

But Verizon and AT&T aren’t the only companies pushing the 5G envelope. Both Sprint and T-Mobile have promised to launch mobile 5G services in 2019, each with their respective spectrum holdings. T-Mobile said its mobile 5G network deployment will in part leverage its 600 MHz licenses, while Sprint has said it will use its substantial 2.5 GHz holdings for its own mobile 5G service.