AT&T Plans 5G Technology Tests Later This Year

AT&T is planning to test super speedy 5G technologies by the end of the year in homes and offices in Austin. The 5G testing comes at a time when data-hogging video that can slow networks down accounts for more than half of the data traffic on AT&T's networks.
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AT&T plans to test super-fast 5G technologies this year, the company announced Friday, Feb. 12. The move occurs as data-hogging video that can slow down its networks accounts for more than 60% of its data traffic.

AT&T will collaborate with Intel and Ericsson to develop 5G solutions beginning in the second quarter, and expects to begin testing 5G in homes and offices in Austin by the end of the year. The telecom behemoth anticipates 5G to deliver speeds that are 10 to 100 times faster than existing 4G LTE connections. For example, a TV show will take less than three seconds to download.

However, video is not the only data-hog that AT&T is eyeing.

"New experiences like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and more are about to test networks like never before," said John Donovan, AT&T's chief strategy officer and group president of AT&T Technology and Operations, in a statement.

4K video, virtual reality, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices are bandwidth-hungry applications, but 5G could resolve some of these issues because it aims to support multiple radio interfaces and allow for more spectrum efficiency, as well as take advantage of SDN and network function virtualization.

"5G will reach its full potential because we will build it on a software-centric architecture that can adapt quickly to new demands and give customers more control of their network services," Donovan said.

AT&T is banking on its 5G tests to provide guidance on what contributions it will make to the 5G standards bodies. 3GPP, an international standards body, is expected to wrap up the first phase of its 5G process in 2018. Verizon, which plans to start its 5G trials this year, expects that 5G will be introduced in the US by 2020.

[Read about AT&T and WiFi calling on the iPhone.]

When the Mobile World Congress is held later this month, the topic of 5G standards is expected to once again grab much of the attention. During last year's conference, there seemed to be some common themes to emerge on how 5G should look.

  • 5G will be much faster, offering connection speeds up to 10 Gbps.
  • Latency will be reduced to 1ms, 500 times faster than current LTE technologies.
  • 5G has to be green and offer a sustainable infrastructure embedded into its DNA.
  • 5G has to be flexible, which will enable different wireless technologies to coexist and share resources.
  • It needs to be secure, offering seamless and uninterrupted connectivity.

In the meantime, AT&T said it plans to continue to evolve its 4G network.

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