AT&T to launch 5G video trial with DirecTV Now in Austin

Austin Texas (pixabay)
Residential customers in Austin, Texas, will be part of an AT&T trial streaming DirecTV Now video over a fixed wireless 5G connection.

AT&T says it will conduct a trial in Austin, Texas, with residential customers streaming DirecTV Now video service over a fixed wireless 5G connection starting in the first half of 2017.

As part of the trial, AT&T also will test additional next-generation entertainment services over fixed 5G connections in an effort to further advance its learnings about 5G, especially in how fixed wireless millimeter wave (mmWave) technology handles heavy video traffic. “Over time, the reach of our 5G deployments will be enhanced even more as customers discover new, innovative mobile-first video services,” the operator said in a press release, where Chief Strategy Officer and Group President of Technology and Operations John Donovan also noted that the majority of data traffic on AT&T’s mobile network is video.

The news comes as part of the 5G evolution plans that AT&T laid out for 2017 and beyond. Another initiative involves 5G New Radio (NR) trials with Qualcomm Technologies and Ericsson for both mobile and fixed trials in the second half of 2017.

Those trials are significant because they are believed to be the first trials to use technology that’s expected to be based on the 5G NR specification being developed by 3GPP; the trials will test solutions in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands. Rival Verizon announced completion of its 5G radio specification last summer, the first U.S. carrier to do so, but that is not the same as what AT&T will be testing.

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The companies say the trials will use device and base station prototype solutions from Qualcomm and Ericsson respectively, along with spectrum from AT&T, to simulate real-world scenarios across a set of use cases and deployment scenarios. The joint press release did not specify where these U.S. trials will take place, but stressed the importance of being based on standards. The interoperability testing and trials are intended to track closely with the first 3GPP 5G NR specification that’s expected to be part of Release 15 from 3GPP.

The trials will use 3GPP 5G NR MIMO antenna technology with adaptive beam forming and beam tracking techniques to deliver “robust and sustained mobile broadband communications” at the higher frequency bands, including non-line-of-sight (NLOS) environments and device mobility. They will also make use of scalable OFDM-based waveforms and a new flexible framework design that are also expected to be part of the 5G NR specs.

RELATED: Verizon’s version of 5G not compatible with 3GPP's current specs—or easily upgradeable: Report

AT&T has said it would like to see the industry finalize parts of the 5G standard earlier—in December 2017 instead of June 2018—to help speed up the 5G rollout process, but Verizon, which plans some commercial rollout of 5G this year, has opposed those efforts in the 3GPP.

AT&T also noted today that it continues to conduct technology trials over fixed wireless point-to-point mmWave and G.fast technologies to boost speeds within its copper and fiber networks. AT&T announced in October that it was conducting a multi-dwelling unit fixed wireless point-to-point mmWave trial in Minneapolis, where it’s reaching out to a new customer base outside its traditional 21-state wireline service territory. It’s also looking to expand those trials into other markets.

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