AT&T presses for multiple licensees in 28 GHz band

AT&T (NYSE: T) said it's a big supporter of multiple licensees in the 28 GHz band, which it called a seminal band for 5G deployment and one that will be critical to early 5G deployment.

With the FCC set to vote on new rules for higher-band spectrum on July 14, AT&T recently took the opportunity to explain its positioning on spectrum aggregation approaches in an ex parte filing (PDF) with the commission.

The operator noted that the 28 GHz band is critically important to emerging 5G development efforts, and many experimental efforts are already underway in the band, where equipment development is the most mature. It has proposed four 200 MHz licenses in the band, allowing incumbent licensees to keep only what they were using for commercial service and allowing the other licenses to be auctioned for competitive and diverse 5G use.

"Given that the FCC is proposing to authorize only two 425 MHz licenses in this band, AT&T supports an approach that would result in two distinct licensees and thus the potential for competitive deployments in each market in the band," said Joan Marsh, VP of federal regulatory at AT&T, in the filing.

As to 37-39 GHz, AT&T also supported a diversity of licensees in the contiguous licensed blocks in 37-39 GHz that will make up this band (excluding the channels identified for shared use with the government). However, it said the 37-39 GHz licensee will need to use over 600 MHz of spectrum to match the performance potential of a single 425 MHz license at 28 GHz.

"Any aggregation approach to this band, including any intraband limits should they be adopted, should take that into consideration and not artificially undermine or restrict the potential for competitive use of the band," Marsh wrote. "Rather, any approach adopted by the Commission should ensure that 5G deployments in 37-39 GHz have an opportunity to compete on par with deployments in 28 GHz."

At the Brooklyn 5G Summit in April, Tom Keathley, SVP of wireless network architecture and design at AT&T, said the carrier would start 5G tests at 15 GHz because that's where the equipment was available the earliest. He added the carrier would later move to 28 GHz.

Last month, Keathley said the operator was seeing great results in its 5G lab trials, including reaching speeds above 10 gigabits per second in early tests with Ericsson. It's also working with Nokia to test millimeter wave technology and will use its 5G lab experience to help shape the standards for 5G.

The carrier is doing a 5G trial in Austin, Texas, where it had a test bed already established. It is also conducting system and software architecture lab work in Atlanta; Middletown, New Jersey; and San Ramon, California. The company said early latency performance tests have shown positive signs for future consumer experiences, such as self-driving cars.

By the end of this summer, AT&T expects to conduct outdoor 5G wireless connectivity trials to fixed locations in cities such as Austin and Middletown. The first phase of the 3GPP's standards-setting process is expected to be completed in 2018.

For more:
- see this AT&T filing (PDF)

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