AT&T offered an update on its LTE network upgrade efforts at the same time top executives touted the opportunities that will be created by the carrier’s pending rollout of 5G network technology.
“In my 35-year career, I haven’t seen one [technology] as game changing” as 5G, said AT&T’s Donovan in comments to CNBC. With 5G, “instead of virtual reality being a helmet, it will be more like a set of glasses.”
Not surprisingly, AT&T’s Donovan also took a swipe at rival Verizon, which this week switched on what Verizon has described as the world’s first commercial 5G network.
“That service we had up last year,” Donovan said of Verizon’s fixed 5G service. Donovan was referring to AT&T’s fixed 5G tests in Waco, Texas.
“No, that’s not first,” Donovan said of Verizon’s first-to-5G launch claims. “There’s ‘real first’ and then there’s ‘television commercial first.’”
“What everybody is really waiting for is when it becomes mobile,” Donovan said of 5G. He noted that AT&T plans to launch mobile 5G services in a dozen cities later this year with a “puck” device.
The race to 5G is on, Donovan said. “Superlatives in the wireless industry matter: fastest, biggest, best, first. And it always has,” he said. “Whoever gets out first has an advantage.”
But even as AT&T barrels toward mobile 5G, the company touted its upgrades to its LTE network. (However, AT&T has branded those LTE upgrades as “5G Evolution.”) AT&T said it upgraded 99 new markets with LTE Advanced technologies like carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM, bringing its total number of 5G Evolution markets to 239.
“As a reminder, 5G Evolution markets are locations where we’ve deployed technologies that enable peak theoretical wireless speeds for capable devices of at least 400 megabits per second,” AT&T said in a release. “And, we plan to offer 5G Evolution in over 400 markets by the end of the year.”
Importantly, AT&T said it is also deploying LAA technology, which is designed to essentially transmit LTE signals in unlicensed spectrum.
“With LTE-LAA, the network technologies have a peak theoretical wireless speed for capable devices of 1 gigabit per second. LTE-LAA is now live in parts of 20 cities with plans to reach at least 24 cities this year,” AT&T said.
Article updated Oct. 4 to correct AT&T's fixed wireless tests.