Despite its recent loss of Straight Path to Verizon, AT&T believes it has the high frequency spectrum it needs to get started on 5G rollouts.
Speaking at the Wells Fargo 5G Forum this week, AT&T’s SVP Technology Planning and Engineering Scott Mair said the carrier’s pending FiberTower acquisition will give it a solid foundation to get moving on 5G. Mair noted the deal will bring AT&T nearly 400 MHz nationwide of 24 GHz and 39 GHz airwaves. The transaction is “a really good starting spot for us,” he said.
“It gives us the ramp, the roadway into 5G that we need,” Mair commented.
Mair said there will be other opportunities for AT&T to gather up more spectrum down the line through FCC auctions and “other means,” but said the carrier is content where it is for now.
“We have what we need now to get into the 5G space and grow it considerably well,” he added.
In terms of timeline, Mair reiterated the carrier is looking to accelerate deployments. AT&T is expecting 5G-ready equipment and chipsets by the close of this year, he noted, ahead of the release of the Phase 1 3GPP standard in late 2018 and the Phase 2 mobility standard that is expected to make its debut by the end of 2019.
But as its competitors forge ahead, AT&T isn’t waiting.
The carrier earlier this year announced a series of 5G field trials in Austin that are expected to hit peak speeds of 1 Gbps. Last month, AT&T also applied to conduct fixed wireless 5G trials at 28 GHz across three states.
But AT&T isn’t just dealing with high-band spectrum. The carrier is also prepping for deployments of 60 MHz of low-band spectrum as part of its FirstNet build. Mair said the carrier plans to use a “one touch” approach to light up 20 MHz of FirstNet spectrum, as well as 40 MHz of AWS and WCS airwaves in a single shot.
AT&T just released its FirstNet plans to the states earlier this week, and Mair said the carrier is on track to start deployments in mid-December.