AT&T at CES on Wednesday laid out a roadmap for its evolution to 5G, noting it is “not waiting” for the final standards to be set and promising big things to come in 2017.
According to the carrier, 2017 will usher in 1 Gbps speeds via the continued deployment and densification of its LTE-Advanced network. While AT&T is in the midst of deploying three-channel carrier aggregation now, the company is planning to launch both four-channel carrier aggregation and LTE-License Assisted Access (LAA) in the coming year. The result will be the first realizations of gigabit speeds on its network, the carrier indicated.
“The continued deployment of our 4G LTE-Advanced network remains essential to laying the foundation for our evolution to 5G,” an AT&T press release read. “In fact, we expect to begin reaching peak theoretical speeds of up to 1 Gbps at some cell sites in 2017. We will continue to densify our wireless network this year through the deployment of small cells and the use of technologies like carrier aggregation, which increases peak data speeds.”
Additionally, AT&T plans to conduct a 5G video trial in the first half of the year using its recently launched DirecTV Now streaming service. The carrier reported the trial will take place in Austin and will offer residential customers the chance to stream DirecTV Now over a fixed wireless 5G connection. “Next-generation entertainment services” will also be tested over the fixed connection, AT&T said.
AT&T said the video tests are intended to help it better understand how fixed wireless millimeter wave technology handles heavy video traffic.
AT&T Chief Strategy Officer and Technology and Operations President John Donovan noted the surge in video traffic in particular is a key driver of the carrier’s push toward 5G.
“Data on our mobile network has increased about 250,000 percent since 2007, and the majority of that traffic is video,” Donovan observed. “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 carrier will also be conducting additional fixed and mobile 5G trials in the second half of the year in partnership with Qualcomm and Ericsson. AT&T noted the trials will be significant because they will be the first based on the 5G New Radio specification under development by the 3GPP standards body. The new trials will utilize millimeter wave spectrum in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands, according to the carrier, and are expected to yield “multi-gigabit data rates.”
A separate press release from Qualcomm indicated the tests will employ 3GPP 5G NR Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technology with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking, as well as scalable OFDM-based waveforms and a new flexible framework design that are also expected to be part of the 5G NR specifications. The trials are expected to track closely with the 5G NR specification that is anticipated to be a part of 3GPP’s Release 15, which will help ensure the technology will work with future 3GPP 5G NR updates.
According to AT&T, the upcoming trials will build on the base of trials past, which the carrier reported have achieved speeds of up to 14 Gbps over a wireless connection and latency of less than 3 milliseconds.