Citing network upgrades that include centralized-RAN (C-RAN), 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO and three-way carrier aggregation, AT&T is launching 5G Evolution in parts of Indianapolis today.
AT&T said it worked closely with the city of Indianapolis to make sure AT&T’s network and infrastructure are ready to support the “technology of the future” to prepare for things like self-driving cars. The operator invested more than $350 million in its Indianapolis wireless and wired networks during 2014-2016.
“We’re excited to launch these new, faster, wireless technologies in Indianapolis as we march towards standards-based mobile 5G,” said Marachel Knight, senior vice president, Wireless Network Architecture and Design, in a release. “The upgrades in Indianapolis are crucial to the future of next generation connectivity in this city.”
AT&T caused a ruckus in April when it announced it would offer “5G Evolution internet speeds” in 20 metro areas by the end of 2017, leading some rivals to call it “fake news” and “fake 5G” because the technologies being deployed are still very much attached to LTE. But AT&T defended its use of the 5G Evolution branding and said it’s laying the foundation for 5G while the standards are being finalized.
The company is contributing to the 3GPP wireless standards process and is working with more than a dozen technology companies to get 5G ready for actual deployment.
AT&T said that as a result of multiple network upgrades in Indianapolis, 5G Evolution customers can expect wireless download speeds twice as fast as its 4G LTE network. The company has previously said that it expects to enable theoretical peak speeds up to 1 Gbps in some areas in 2017.
Customers with Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ phones can take advantage of the technology upgrades, with more 5G Evolution-capable devices to become available in the coming months, the operator said.
With C-RAN, AT&T explained that the “brains” of each small cell or tower exist in one location, allowing engineers to add capacity and improve efficiency for hundreds of cell sites quickly and simultaneously. C-RAN is considered a key building block for the software-defined network, also an integral part of the 5G network architecture.
A new Distributed Antenna System (DAS) was launched and additional network capacity was added to nine existing AT&T systems in Indianapolis to serve customers at large venues such as airports, stadiums and malls over the past year.
By the end of 2017, AT&T expects to deploy LTE-LAA and 4-way carrier aggregation in certain areas of the 5G Evolution metro areas. It recently tested LTE-LAA in San Francisco, where it saw peak speeds of more than 750 Mbps, and it plans to expand its LTE-LAA testing to more areas of San Francisco and Indianapolis in the coming weeks.
The Indianapolis launch follows an earlier launch in Austin, Texas, the other market that AT&T identified earlier this year as a focus for its 5G endeavors.
Indianapolis is seeing its share of 5G tests and trials. In May, Verizon used the Indy 500 event to showcase 5G radios mounted on the track and conducted a stunt whereby the windows of a car were blacked out and the driver used a virtual reality (VR) video feed from the radios to steer the car around the track.
To be sure, AT&T is not alone in deploying advanced LTE technologies like carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM. T-Mobile in September of 2016 announced it launched 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM, and Verizon and Sprint have discussed their own launches of newer LTE technologies as well.