AT&T (NYSE: T) is 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, and it plans to conduct outdoor tests and trials of the technology this summer. The company said 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 expects 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.
The goal, said AT&T, is to use the results of these trials to help develop 5G standards and set the stage for more widespread commercial deployment once the 5G standards are finalized.
AT&T isn't alone in its 5G trials. Verizon announced last September that it is working with partners Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung to test 5G in the company's innovation centers in Waltham, Mass., and San Francisco. Verizon's technology field trials are expected to begin this year.
AT&T's Chief Strategy Officer and Group President John Donovan said in a statement that AT&T's 5G tests will build off the company's software-centric network architecture, which he said is flexible and can give customers more control over their network services.
In 2014, AT&T announced its software-defined networking (SDN) strategy and its goal of virtualizing 75 percent of its network by 2020. Last year, AT&T announced it had virtualized 5.7 percent of its network and in 2016 it plans to expand SDN to 30 percent of its network. The company also said it has 14 million wireless customers on its virtualized network and will migrate millions more in 2016.
Interestingly, AT&T executives have recently tried to downplay any 5G development in order to avoid what they characterize as unnecessary hype. In January, AT&T Mobility CEO Glenn Lurie told FierceWireless: "We don't think it's necessary to hype something when the 3GPP standard won't be done for another couple of years. What concerns me about that is we've done an incredible job of building a 4G network and it's performing well. Hyping 5G because others around the world are doing it is not the right thing to do. We don't want to overpromise and under-deliver."
AT&T's announcement regarding its 5G trial comes just days ahead of the world's largest mobile trade show, Mobile World Congress, which is held every year in Barcelona, Spain.
- see this press release
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