AT&T is asking the FCC to grant it a two-year experimental license so that it can conduct testing and propagation measurements to evaluate the viability of the 3.4-4.2 GHz and millimeter-wave bands for supporting 5G.
While rival Verizon has been talking about 5G for some time and is conducting precommercial tests in about 10 markets, AT&T is sticking to its standards guns and close to the 3GPP’s standards development. AT&T said in its application that its tests will provide valuable information for optimizing 5G system parameters being discussed in 5G standard activities and provide data on coverage, capacity, latency and other key performance indices.
AT&T’s application lists 3.7-4.2 GHz but also many other bands, including 27.5-2.835 GHz, 3.7-3.86 GHz, 64-71 GHz and 71-76 GHz. The 3.7-4.2 GHz band is particularly interesting because the propagation characteristics are similar to those of the 3.5 GHz band and the 3.55-4.2 GHz range, which combines 3.5 GHz and 3.7-4.2 GHz, is being considered in other regions of the world for 5G, increasing its chances for international harmony.
AT&T said its testing will involve communications between a fixed outdoor base station in Austin, Texas, and user equipment (UEs) operated from inside residential units, business units and test vehicles located within three kilometers of the base station. The 5G radio signal will be measured and analyzed in various types of RF propagation environments, such as line-of-sight, through foliage, built-up nearby structures and so on.
No specific manufacturers are listed on the application, but 10 units from multiple vendors are part of the plan.
Austin has been a popular venue for 5G development. Last week as part of a broader Indigo network announcement, AT&T said it would launch its first “5G Evolution” markets in Austin and Indianapolis, and Austin is the site of the company’s first enterprise-focused 5G trial with Intel as well as a trial with DirecTV.
AT&T is also building two 5G test beds in Austin to debut this spring. The test beds will include dedicated 5G outdoor and indoor test locations and feature flexible infrastructure to allow modifications and updates as 5G standards develop.
AT&T has said it would like to see the industry finalize parts of the 5G standard earlier—in December 2017 instead of June 2018—to help speed up the 5G rollout process, but Verizon has opposed those efforts in the 3GPP.