AT&T has promised to bring 5G to 12 cities in the US this year, and the latest three markets due to receive 5G were announced today: Charlotte, Raleigh and Oklahoma City. Earlier this year they announced that service would be brought to Dallas, Atlanta and Waco; additional cities are expected to be announced as the year progresses.
“5G will be more than just a better network,” AT&T technology and operations president Melissa Arnoldi said. “We believe 5G will ultimately create a world of new economic opportunity, greater mobility, and smarter connectivity for individuals, businesses and society as a whole.”
C Spire, a regional carrier operating in Mississippi, has begun offering what they’re marketing as a 5G fixed wireless service that can provide speeds of 120mbps. While they’re using the 5G term, though, C Spire’s service doesn’t utilize the true 3GPP 5G standards. C Spire is using an 802.11 variant and operating on sub-6 Ghz and 60 GHz spectrum to provide the service, and users need to install a “dinner plate” sized antenna to receive it.
“It’s a big deal for consumers and businesses in Mississippi,” said a C Spire spokesman. “We’re really serious about massive deployment of broadband in our footprint.” The spokesman also indicated that they will continue to study the 3GPP standards for 5G and may move in that direction as they continue research and development.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced two spectrum auctions, planned to begin in November, that will contribute to the development of 5G. According to Pai’s blog, the FCC will vote in its August 2 meeting to conduct a November 2018 auction of spectrum in the 28 GHz band, to be followed soon after by an auction for the 24 GHz bands. These high frequency bands are critical for 5G, thanks to their capacity to deliver data and traffic more quickly and efficiently than lower frequencies.
“5G has the potential to have an enormously positive impact on American consumers,” Pai said in a statement to USA TODAY. “High-speed, high-capacity wireless connectivity will unleash new innovations to improve our quality of life. It’s the building block to a world where everything that can be connected will be connected – where driverless cars talk to smart transportation networks and where wireless sensors can monitor your health and transmit data to your doctor. That’s a snapshot of what the 5G world will look like.”
Derek Peterson, CTO of Los Angeles-based mobile internet and WiFi company Boing Wireless, did an interview with RCR Wireless in which he discussed 5G and how it will converge with WiFi. As he explained, “To meet the demand of a new connected generation—and accommodate applications like IoT, autonomous cars, AR/VR and artificial intelligence—we’ll need all available spectrum and technologies. It’s not a case of 5G or Wi-Fi, it will be a case of 5G and Wi-Fi. ”
The FCC has awarded an experimental radio license to AT&T for the purpose of testing standards-based 5G at the convention center in Austin, Texas. Per their application, AT&T will run three 28GHz fixed base stations, with connections to six compatible user devices at up to 100 meters. To show off the real-world capabilities of 5G, they’ll demonstrate 4K TV, mobile gaming, and more.
The Austin test project is due to launch in late July.
According to Calcalist, Apple has decided not to use Intel’s “Sunny Peak” 5G modem for their first 5G iPhone, which is planned to launch in 2020. It’s unclear which supplier Apple will turn to now for this critical component or how it will impact the timeline of their 5G phone development.
AT&T has progressed from field and lab trials to trialing their 5G fixed-wireless service to several residences in South Bend, Indiana. The results thus far are proving 5G’s capabilities, with one household reporting speeds of 1Gbps and latency under 20ms – performance that exceeds traditional home internet options and blows 4G out of the water. As president of AT&T Technology and Operations Melissa Arnoldi explained, this type of performance allows customers to use “bandwidth-heavy applications simultaneously and seamlessly — something that would be nearly impossible with current LTE technologies”.
AT&T’s 5G plans will continue in 2018 and 2019, with the first three large-scale rollouts planned for Dallas, Atlanta, and Waco.
Countries around the world have focused on harmonizing the 3.5GHz spectrum for 5G use on an international basis, but outdated regulations on that spectrum could impede the use of it in the U.S.
The current regulations were created under the assumption that the 3.5GHz spectrum would be used like Wi-Fi, with businesses or manufacturers and utilities installing antennas to facilitate private wireless networks, so licenses for 3.5GHz use are assigned using Census Tracks – which only cover a small area. The FCC and the mobile industry agree that assigning licenses based on Census Tracks would be entirely unfeasible for 5G deployments, and regulations will have to be changed to make 3.5GHz a realistic part of the path to 5G.
There’s no question that 5G will provide enormous advantages over older networks when it comes to speed and bandwidth capacity, but 5G does have a glaring limitation that will make it difficult to replace older networks for some time: signal penetration. The higher frequencies that will be utilized by 5G networks are less able to penetrate walls and other obstructions than lower spectrum, meaning DAS or small cells may be needed in office buildings and other indoor venues – but there may be limitations in utilizing those types of systems, currently used for 3G and 4G in signal-challenged spaces, with 5G.
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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson discussed today how the updates being made to their towers to support the first responder network FirstNet will also help with the transition to 5G.
“To build out this FirstNet capability, this first responder network, we have to go climb every cell tower. Literally, we have to go touch every cell tower over the next couple of years,” explained Stephenson. “As we’re touching those cell towers, every single one of them, we have a lot of spectrum in inventory. We will be lighting that spectrum up as we touch each cell tower.”
Once the physical upgrades to the towers are complete, all that will be necessary to “light up” 5G when the time comes is a simple software update. While the timeline for the actual widespread launch of their 5G network is likely a long one, Stephenson said that they expect the fiber build-out for the FirstNet and 5G networks to be complete in 14 million locations within the next 12 months.