AT&T, Nokia complete 39 GHz trial with DirecTV Now service

AT&T sign
AT&T recently completed fixed wireless tests with Nokia and AT&T's internet TV streaming service, DirecTV Now.

AT&T and Nokia are claiming a big first as they completed fixed wireless 5G tests with AT&T’s internet streaming service DirecTV Now in the 39 GHz band. The trial, which was conducted at the AT&T Labs facility in Middletown, New Jersey, used Nokia’s AirScale radio access platform.

The 39 GHz and the 28 GHz bands are particularly attractive for 5G type services because of the large bandwidth available. Verizon just so happens to have a lot of 28 GHz at its disposal while AT&T acquired 39 GHz with its purchase of FiberTower.

However, Nokia said in a press release that there’s significantly more bandwidth available at 39 GHz, making it a strong candidate to support 5G deployments. Nokia began testing millimeter wave technology with AT&T in 2016.  

"With this trial, we're doing something that no other operator has done—regionally or globally,” said Tom Keathley, senior vice president of wireless network architecture and design at AT&T, in the press release. “We expect 39 GHz to be an important 5G band in the United States, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with Nokia to further advance 5G technology in this band. The work coming out of AT&T Labs will provide valuable contributions to future 5G standards, and allow us to pave the way for delivering significantly faster speeds and a better overall network experience for our customers across the U.S."

The companies said the results from their DirecTV Now trial demonstrate 5G's promise of providing new experiences to end users with its ultra-low network latency and higher throughput—all important requirements for both media services and the industrial internet.

RELATED: AT&T Labs wants to test 28 GHz, 39 GHz outdoors near New Jersey facilities

With its recent acquisition of FiberTower,  AT&T gained access to spectrum in the 24 GHz and 39 GHz bands covering 8.4 billion MHz POPs, according to Wells Fargo and AllNet Insights.

Meanwhile, Verizon recently closed its acquisition of XO Communications, which was initially announced last year. Under terms of that deal, Verizon will be able to lease XO's 102 LMDS licenses in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands (licenses that Wells Fargo analysts noted cover 188 billion MHz­-POPs, or 23x what FiberTower owned).

Another big holder of 39 GHz spectrum is Straight Path, and some observers have speculated it’s a good candidate for AT&T to acquire.

RELATED: Editor's Corner—The battle over 5G spectrum has begun

AT&T last month announced that it will be conducting in the first half of 2017 a 5G video trial with DirecTV Now in Austin, Texas, where residential customers can stream DirecTV Now video service over a fixed wireless 5G connection. As part of that trial, AT&T said it will also test additional next-generation entertainment services over fixed 5G connections. The trial will include multiple sites and devices.

AT&T also announced in January that it was going to conduct interoperability tests and over-the-air field trials with Qualcomm and Ericsson using gear based on the expected 5G New Radio (NR) specifications being developed by 3GPP.

Those trials, due to start the second half of 2017, are aimed at accelerating commercial deployments in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands. The trials will use device and base station prototype solutions from Qualcomm Technologies and Ericsson respectively, along with spectrum from AT&T, to simulate real-world scenarios across a set of use cases and deployment scenarios.