AT&T expands ‘5G Evolution’ to 117 new markets, adds LAA to 3 more markets

AT&T sign
AT&T said it plans to broadly make 5G Evolution technology and the capabilities it enables available in more than 500 markets later this year. (FierceWireless)

AT&T announced that its 5G Evolution technology, which includes LTE Advanced features like 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO and 3-way carrier aggregation, is now in parts of 117 new markets, bringing the total markets served to 141. AT&T’s 5G Evolution technologies can deliver theoretical peak speeds for capable devices of up to 400 megabits per second.

It’s also making LTE LAA available in parts of three new markets—Boston, Sacramento; California and McAllen, Texas, areas—bringing the total number of markets served with that technology to seven.

The operator previously launched LTE-LAA in The Loop in Chicago, around Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, downtown Los Angeles and the Financial District in San Francisco. Plans call for enabling LAA in at least 24 markets this year.

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AT&T said its LTE-LAA technologies can deliver theoretical peak speeds for capable devices of up to 1 gigabit per second. The upgrades are all part of its path to eventual nationwide 5G.

“We’re building a 5G network that will fundamentally change the way the world lives and works,” said Melissa Arnoldi, president of Technology & Operations, in a press release. “5G will provide a wireless experience that is faster, more responsive and more secure for our customers.”

RELATED: AT&T defends use of ‘5G Evolution’ branding for LTE service, promises theoretical speeds up to 1 Gbps this year

AT&T caused a stir last year when it announced it will offer “5G Evolution internet speeds” in 20 major metro areas by the end of 2017. AT&T has been a stickler about launching a standardized 3GPP version of 5G rather than prestandards, but the first 5G specification wasn’t ratified until December.

At the time, AT&T defended its use of the 5G label, saying 5G Evolution lays the foundation for 5G while the standards are being finalized. To be sure, other carriers also offer LTE Advanced features like 256 QAM.

AT&T said it plans to broadly make 5G Evolution technology and the capabilities it enables available in more than 500 markets later this year, including in parts of Baltimore; Charlotte, N.C.; Cleveland; Denver; Detroit; Jacksonville, Fla.; Kansas City; Las Vegas; New York City; Philadelphia; Raleigh, N.C.; Salt Lake City; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

Earlier this year, AT&T announced plans to be the first U.S. carrier to deploy mobile 5G to customers in a dozen cities, including in parts of Dallas, Atlanta and Waco, Texas. Company executives have said the operator will offer a mobile “puck” device in time for the launch.

Devices that support the latest 5G Evolution and LAA include the Samsung Galaxy lineup—S8, S9, S8+, S9+, Note8 and S8 Active—as well as the LG V30 and Moto Z2 Force Edition.

Of course, for AT&T, it’s all about SDN. The operator was the first service provider to go all-in on SDN, reaching its goal of virtualizing 55% of its network in 2017 and setting a goal of 65% for 2018, noted Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and chief technology officer, in a blog.

“For our 5G house, the framework is software-defined networking,” he wrote. “SDN and related elements like white box and Network AI are also the wiring, plumbing and insulation behind the walls. You can’t see it, but it’s essential to support the massive data use 5G will bring.”

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