AT&T today announced its 5G Evolution plans for 2017 and beyond, and highlighted its other initiatives to expand and enhance ultra-fast internet access for millions of customers.
“Our 5G Evolution plans will pave the way to the next-generation of higher speeds for customers. We’re not waiting until the final standards are set to lay the foundation for our evolution to 5G. We’re executing now,” said John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president, Technology and Operations. “Data on our mobile network has increased about 250,000% since 2007, and the majority of that traffic is video. 5G’s promise of greater speed and overall network performance brings huge opportunities not only for video but in the Internet of Things, 4K video, augmented and virtual reality, smart home and cities, autonomous vehicles and much more.”
The path to 5G encompasses fixed and mobile solutions. AT&T continues to collaborate with more than a dozen global technology companies around 5G standards efforts, and its initial lab trials are already achieving speeds up to 14 gigabits-per-second (Gbps) over a wireless connection.
In lab trials, AT&T has successfully tested a connection with less than 3 milliseconds of latency, which surpasses any current LTE network technology. Latency impacts things like the time between pressing play and seeing a video start to stream or between hitting a web link and seeing a webpage begin to load. The industry expectation for 5G is latency less than 5 milliseconds.
Here’s additional color around AT&T’s 5G Evolution:
- 1 Gbps Speeds in 2017: The continued deployment of AT&T’s 4G LTE-Advanced network remains essential to laying the foundation for the company’s evolution to 5G. AT&T expects to begin reaching peak theoretical speeds of up to 1 Gbps at some cell sites in 2017. The company will continue to densify its wireless network this year through the deployment of small cells and the use of technologies like carrier aggregation, which increases peak data speeds. AT&T is currently deploying three-way carrier aggregation in select areas, and plans to introduce four-way carrier aggregation as well as LTE-License Assisted Access (LAA) this year.
- 5G Video Trial with DIRECTV NOW: In the first half of 2017, AT&T plans to conduct a trial in Austin where residential customers can stream DIRECTV NOW video service over a fixed wireless 5G connection. As part of this trial, the company will also test additional next-generation entertainment services over fixed 5G connections. The trial will include multiple sites and devices, and AT&T expects to further advance its 5G learnings – especially in how fixed wireless mmWave technology handles heavy video traffic. And over time, the reach of AT&T 5G deployments will be enhanced even more as customers discover new, innovative mobile-first video services.
- First 5G Business Customer Trial: Last fall, AT&T launched what it believes to be the industry’s first 5G business customer trial in Austin with Intel and Ericsson using millimeter wave (mmWave) technology, which can deliver multi-gigabit speeds using an unlicensed band of spectrum. The company trialed several video streaming and conferencing experiences, and saw upload and download speeds around 1 Gbps during the first phase of the trial.
- Additional 5G Trials: AT&T recently announced plans to team up with Qualcomm Technologies and Ericsson for mobile and fixed wireless trials in the second half of 2017. These trials are significant because they will be AT&T’s first trials to use what it expects to be based upon the 5G New Radio specification being developed by the industry technology standards group 3GPP. Industry standards are important to enabling wide-scale 5G commercialization. The trials will test both mobile and fixed wireless solutions operating in mmWave spectrum accelerating commercial deployments in the 28Ghz and 39Ghz bands. They will showcase new 5G radio mmWave technologies for increasing network capacity while achieving multi-gigabit data rates.
AT&T Fiber Update
Today, AT&T is marketing a 1 gigabit connection on its 100% fiber network to nearly 4 million locations across 46 metros nationwide. More than 650,000 of these locations include apartments and condo units. The company has the largest fiber network across the 21 states where it offers home internet service and by mid-2019 AT&T plans to reach at least 12.5 million locations across 67 metro areas with its 100% fiber network.
AT&T is also conducting technology trials over fixed wireless point-to-point mmWave and G.fast technologies to deliver greater speeds and efficiencies within its copper and fiber networks.
- Millimeter Wave Trial Expansion: In October 2016, AT&T announced its multi-dwelling unit (MDU) fixed wireless point-to-point mmWave trial in Minneapolis. This gives AT&T the potential to reach a new customer base outside of its traditional 21 state wireline service area. The company is also exploring additional markets for trial locations.
- G.fast Experiments Expanding: G.fast technology enables AT&T to bring the speed of fiber to existing copper lines that already exist in many locations. AT&T is encouraged by the results of its G.fast trial taking place at another MDU in the Minneapolis area. The company is gearing up to offer G.fast to more locations, primarily MDUs, within our 21 state wireline footprint in 2017.
Rural Broadband Efforts
There are still many homes in the U.S. – especially in rural areas – that have slow or no internet connectivity. In 2016, AT&T began trialing Fixed Wireless Internet (FWI) service in several states. It plans to begin offering FWI in mid-2017 in areas where it accepted FCC Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II) support. AT&T expects to reach more than 400,000 locations by the end of 2017 across the 18 states where the company accepted CAF II funds, most of which will get internet access for the first time. By the end of 2020, AT&T plans to reach 1.1 million locations in those 18 states.
Project AirGig Progressing
In September 2016, AT&T unveiled Project AirGig, a transformative technology from AT&T Labs that could one day deliver low-cost, multi-gigabit wireless internet speeds over power lines.
Project AirGig is one of the most ambitious and inventive projects in AT&T Labs history. The company now has more than 200 patents and patent applications for Project AirGig and it plans to begin field trials in 2017.
Project AirGig has the potential to be a win for AT&T customers and a win for the electric utility companies. Collaborations between AT&T and utility companies could enable and expand a variety of smart-grid applications such as early detection of line integrity issues and help with proactive line maintenance.