AT&T to launch its proposed version of 5G wireless this year

Indianapolis and Austin will get the trial service, even though the actual standards for 5G are at least a year away


AT&T will launch its first 5G wireless service in Indianapolis and Austin later this year, offering theoretical top speeds of 400Mbps or higher, the company said. The service is based on AT&T's vision for 5G; there are no standards yet for the successor to today's 4G LTE service, and any 5G standards are more than a year away at best.

Current 4G LTE networks often no higher throughout than 30Mbps on downloads, according to various field tests by independent testing companies.

One such testing company, OpenSignal, reported last year that AT&T had reached just 7.93 Mbps on 4G LTE for average downloads, based on thousands of measurements. T-Mobile, meanwhile, was the top performer, with 12.26 Mbps, where it had availability.

Massive bandwidth and low latency from the eventual 5G networks will help self-driving cars and mobile augmented reality and virtual reality headsets, AT&T said.

New technologies atop the 5G network and greater density of wireless transmitters could bring the theoretical test speeds even higher -- to 1Gbps in 2017, AT&T said. In December, AT&T launched its first business customer trial in Austin with Intel and Ericsson.

The company also said it will build two new 5G testing labs this spring in Austin. The testbeds will be used to support a fixed wireless 5G connection to stream DirecTV Now for residential and small and medium business customers.

Also, the testbeds will be used to evaluate multiple vendors of advanced 5G technology for wireless systems. The tests will also explore 5G signal coverage for frequency bands in the 28GHz, 39GHz, and sub-6GHz bands.

AT&T described 5G as one of several parts of a technology platform called Indigo. John Donovan, AT&T's chief strategy officer for technology and operations, described Indigo as similar to an operating system for the AT&T network. Every network element will become more efficient using the Indigo approach, he said.

In addition to 5G, AT&T described other components of Indigo that include software-defined networking and open-sourced ECOMP, to be hosted by the Linux Foundation. ECOMP is a network operating system behind AT&T's software-defined network. ECOMP stands for Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management, and Policy and is basically automation software to help virtualize networks.

AT&T said Indigo includes a data platform that organizations relying on AT&T's network can use to share data and collaborate securely on analytics. For example, AT&T said with Indigo, patients living far away from research centers could participate in medical trials; so-called smart cities could share data and initiatives; or cybersecurity experts could use machine learning to analyze threats to all the members of a community, not just threats faced by one member.

Early in 2016, analysts predicted that full rollouts of 5G and related components by both AT&T and Verizon to reach significant parts of the U.S. would not occur until 2019 or 2020.

The 5G wireless standards group, called 3GPP, approved a fixed wireless standard "accelerated plan" that could offer a completed standard by 2018, so that SK Telecom could show the new technology at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

This story, "AT&T to launch its proposed version of 5G wireless this year" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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