AT&T teams with Intel, Ericsson in first business customer 5G field trial

AT&T is using millimeter wave technology to power a 5G network experience in one of Intel’s offices in Austin, Texas.

AT&T is leaving the lab and heading to the field with Intel in its first 5G business customer trial at an Intel office setting in Austin, Texas.

It’s the first trial of its kind, according to AT&T’s knowledge, and will provide more than a gigabit per second bandwidth to let AT&T test multiple enterprise proof-of-concept use cases, including internet access, VPN, Unified Communications applications and 4K video streams, the company said in a blog post.   

The trial, which includes Ericsson, will showcase the potential of 5G over the 15 GHz and 28 GHz bands and shed new light on how the technology acts in a business environment. The 15 GHz band is one that Ericsson has been working with in Sweden, so it’s using the same type of prototype here in the U.S. where applicable, and the 28 GHz band is one that many operators are eyeing for initial 5G deployments.

According to Tom Keathley, senior vice president, wireless network architecture and design at AT&T, it’s all about video. “The future of video is mobile. And the future of mobile is video,” he said in the blog. “Mobile video streaming continues to be a vital aspect of our 5G work, and this trial gives us an opportunity to test 4K HD video streaming across further physical distances between pieces of equipment. With our 5G and 4G LTE advancements, we expect speeds rivaling what we see from cable providers. Our path to 5G will help make this vision a reality faster.”

AT&T said it has hit speeds of nearly 14 gigabits per second in 5G lab settings and now it’s going to see how it performs in the field. AT&T earlier this year was granted a three-year authority from the FCC to conduct tests at various frequencies in Austin.

Rob Topol, general manager for Intel’s 5G business, told Fortune that they will be trying to force congestion into the system and test how well signals pass through trees and glass windows to bring the 5G signal inside a building. Once in the building, Intel workers will connect to 4K video streams, exchange large files, operate over virtual private networking, and generally try to stress the equipment using standard Wi-Fi.

“Intel is committed to collaborating with industry leaders to develop leading technologies and solutions that expedite network readiness for the successful early roll out of 5G," Aicha Evans, corporate vice president and general manager of the Communications and Devices Group of Intel, said in the blog post. "We are excited to work with AT&T on this initial trial as we work to deliver the products and investments that will bring 5G to life."

Austin, home of the Wireless Networking and Communications Group (WNCG) at the University of Texas, is a popular place for 5G trials. At the Texas Wireless Summit (TWS) this past fall, AT&T and Ericsson were part of a 5G demo that showcased millimeter wave radio access technology, including phased arrays with ultra-fast beam steering, feedback-based hybrid precoding, multi-user Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO), dynamic beam tracking and beam acquisition. Similar to some other 5G tests and trials, the system operated on 800 megahertz of bandwidth.