AT&T goes big on another fixed wireless 5G trial

AT&T has made a play to launch itself to the top of the wireless standings with a new trial in Austin where the team hope to deliver speeds up to 1 gigabit per second using mmWave spectrum.

The trial will make use of Ericsson’s 5G RAN and the Intel 5G Mobile Trial Platform, with the team aiming participants will be able to stream premium live TV via DirecTV Now, all over a fixed wireless 5G signal. This trial follows up a previous one in Intel’s Austen office, where the trio tested the potential of 5G VoIP over the 15 GHz and 28 GHz spectrum bands, amongst other areas.

“The technology behind 5G is important. But it’s also about advancing social trends like mobile video streaming,” said Marachel Knight, SVP of Wireless Network Architecture and Design at AT&T.

“In Austin, we’re testing DirecTV Now over ultra-fast internet speeds at a variety of locations. The network of the future will help redefine what connectivity means to both consumers and businesses. This trial helps show that the new reality is coming fast.”

The success seemingly can’t come soon enough either. AT&T claims mobile traffic on its network has grown more than 250,000% since 2007, with video now taking up more than half of the total traffic. In fact, video traffic grew over 75% and smartphones drove almost 75% of data traffic in 2016. Those are some pretty significant numbers.

While this trial will last a couple of months, work elsewhere will obviously not stop. This also includes the teams investigation into the role of software-defined networks, an area of the telco world which has seemingly gone quiet recently. Part of this work will look into an experiment with new virtualized-RAN core network capabilities.

If 5G is the first evolution to be ‘born in the cloud’, there is still a lot of work to be done on the virtualization front. Earlier this month, AT&T claimed to have 34% of network functions already software defined, though the team anticipate this number will be closer to 55% by the end of the year. One of the larger ambitions is to have 75% of traffic on its software-defined network by 2020.

If the demands of customers, or the potential of cloud-centric applications are to be met, just having chips, devices and equipment won’t be enough; a software-defined network will be critical. Perhaps it’s nice to see that there are still some operators out there who are happy to talk about the less sexy side of the flirtatious telecommunications industry.

It’s ambitions are big, but this could put AT&T in a solid position in the 5G market.

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