AT&T prepares for more 5G mobility tests in 2018

Austin Texas (Pixabay)
AT&T will be further testing millimeter wave mobility in Austin. (Image: Pixabay)

So far, much of the 5G buzz in the industry has been focused on fixed wireless, but both Verizon and AT&T will be further testing mobility using millimeter wave spectrum in 2018.

AT&T has already started doing some mobility testing and is building some additional test bed capability in Austin, Texas, providing a good place to test the mobility aspect even further, according to Dave Wolter, AVP of Radio Technology and Strategy at AT&T Labs.

“We’ll be testing that throughout 2018 and hope to take some of those results back into 3GPP,” to help better inform the standards, he told FierceWirelessTech.

3GPP is expected to ratify the Non Standalone (NSA) version of the 5G standard at a meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, this week. That is part of what’s known as Release 15; the Stand Alone (SA) version of Release 15 is expected to be completed by June of 2018, and Release 16 is slated for completion in December 2019.

AT&T has said it plans to launch standards-based 5G as early as late 2018. The timeline was moved ahead after a group of operators and vendors agreed in March to accelerate the NSA implementation of 5G New Radio to this December.

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Part of what AT&T will be studying is how well millimeter wave systems can be used in a fast moving vehicle. There’s already been some testing done in places like China and Japan, for example. But AT&T wants to get more complex with multiple handoffs and multiple vendor implementations to make sure all the beam tracking and algorithms work the way they’re intended, according to Wolter. And, as always, interoperability is a big deal.

AT&T earlier this week announced that it kicked off a fixed wireless 5G trial in Waco, Texas, with the home and lifestyle brand Magnolia. The shopping area where it deployed its 5G millimeter wave system in Waco gets a lot of traffic—about 5,000 visitors a day—and it will give AT&T a chance to see how it works among a lot users, as well as how it behaves amid and around different buildings and surfaces. AT&T also has fixed trials going on in South Bend, Indiana, and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

AT&T actually built its own channel sounder using an architecture based on NI's mmWave Transceiver System, for a first-of-its kind system to provide real-time channel parameter measurement and monitoring capability. It allows for taking measurements in a matter of milliseconds rather than the 10 or 20 minutes it would take with other channel sounders.

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Verizon Chief Network Officer Nicola Palmer said last month that Verizon will be doing 5G mobility testing in 2018. It did some initial 5G mobility testing at the Indy 500 in May, when a driver used augmented reality to drive around the track while the windshield was blacked out. The driver used the augmented reality video to “see” where to drive.

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray has stressed that while other carriers are focused on fixed 5G, basically replacing the wired home internet, T-Mobile intends for mobile 5G to “cover you wherever you go” and not be boring.