AT&T seeing 14 Gbps to one user, 5 Gbps to two users in 5G tests

Ericsson shows off its 5G radio test bed. Image credit: Ericsson

AT&T is currently testing 5G network technology and a top executive said the company has recorded download speeds of 14 Gbps to a single user and 5 Gbps to two users.

Tom Keathley, SVP of wireless network architecture and design for AT&T, discussed the operator’s ongoing 5G network technology tests at the Cowen and Company 2nd Annual Communications Infrastructure Summit this week.

“We’ve actually started and finished testing on a millimeter wave system,” he said. “So we put in a 15 GHz system earlier this year. We finished the testing already on that system. We’re going to install a 28 GHz system later this year.”

Keathley added: “By the way we’ve been able to do 14 Gbps to a single user with that system. We’ve actually tried multi-user MIMO and done 5 Gbps to two users. So really we’ve validated the potential of this type of technology. Now there will be a great deal more testing that will continue before we’re ready to actually operationalize this and install it in the network. But the initial tests show the technology can do exactly what’s been touted.”

AT&T announced in February it was collaborating with Ericsson and Intel to test 5G network technology in the operator's Austin, Texas, network labs starting in the second quarter of this year. The carrier also said it would conduct outdoor tests and trials of the technology this summer.

The company at the time added that it expects to conduct field trials of 5G before year-end, with those trials focusing on providing wireless connectivity to fixed locations. AT&T said it expected to deliver broadband speeds between 10-100 times faster than existing LTE network connections and said customers will likely see speeds in the range of gigabits per second instead of megabits.

In his appearance at the Cowen event this week, Keathley briefly discussed the types of applications that 5G would enable, and pointed to augmented reality apps like Pokémon Go as an example. “5G will enable those type of real time services in a way that’s never happened in the 4G space,” he said.

Of course, AT&T isn’t the only wireless carrier testing 5G technology. Verizon has loudly discussed the potential of 5G and its plans to deploy a fixed commercial version of 5G as early as next year.

Indeed, Verizon reported in February that its early 5G tests topped 10 Gbps and delivered 4K video while moving. And in May, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said that the carrier's 5G tests in its Basking Ridge, New Jersey, headquarters have shown speeds of up to 1.8 Gbps. At the time, he hinted that the range of that service could reach up to 1,000 meters.

To be clear, there is no official standard for 5G network technology, though those in the industry agree it will make heavy use of high-band spectrum, such as the so-called millimeter wave bands around 30 GHz and above. And because there is no official 5G standard yet, most in the industry agree that true mobile 5G services likely won’t hit the commercial market until 2020.

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