AT&T partners with Ericsson and Intel to begin First 5G trials this year

5G remains one of the most buzzed about topics in the wireless world right now. It is probably something most internet users are waiting for, and now they won’t need to wait for long. AT&T in collaboration with Ericsson and Intel have announced plans to unveil the 5G roadmap this year, to customers this next-generation super-fast, flexible wireless connectivity.

AT&T says they plan to collaborate with Ericsson and Intel to work on 5G solutions in its labs starting in the second quarter of this year, with outdoor tests and trials over the summer. Field trials of 5G technologies are expected to provide wireless connectivity to fixed locations in Austin before the end of this year. According to the company, the trials will help guide its 5G standards contributions, and set the stage for widespread commercial and mobile availability once technology standards for 5G are established.

Technologies such as millimeter waves, network function virtualization (NFV), and software-defined networking (SDN) will be among the key ingredients for future 5G experiences. AT&T Labs has been working on these technologies for years and has filed dozens of patents connected with them.

The company says it expects 5G to deliver speeds 10-100 times faster than today’s average 4G LTE connections. Customers will see speeds measured in gigabits per second, not megabits. For reference, at one gigabit per second, you can download a TV show in less than 3 seconds. Customers will also see much lower latency with 5G. Latency, for example, is how long it takes after you press play on a video app for the video to start streaming on your device. AT&T expects 5G latency in the range of 1 to 5 milliseconds.

“New experiences like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and more are about to test networks like never before,” John Donovan, Chief Strategy Officer and Group President, AT&T Technology and Operations said. “These technologies will be immersive, pervasive and responsive to customers. 5G will help make them a reality. 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. Our approach is simple – deliver a unified experience built with 5G, software-defined networking (SDN), Big Data, security and open source software.”

Data traffic on AT&T’s wireless network grew more than 150,000% from 2007 through 2015, and the company says this was driven largely by video. More than 60% of the data traffic on its total network was video in 2015. The company said 4K video, virtual reality, and IoT will drive the next wave of traffic growth adding that 5G is ideal for those bandwidth-hungry applications because it will support multiple radio interfaces, enable more spectrum efficiency, and take advantage of SDN and network function virtualization (NFV).

The company says it is conducting its 5G trials in such a way that it will be able to pivot to compliant commercial deployments once 5G technology standards are set. The international standards body, 3GPP, will likely complete the first phase of that process in 2018.

5G will be efficient and cost-effective because it will give every customer and device exactly what it needs from the same network – whether it’s 10-year battery life for massive sensor networks or multi-gigabit speeds for large data transfers. AT&T’s global leadership in moving to SDN gives us a head start in supporting exploding growth in mobile video consumption. Combined with our superior spectrum position and broadband build-out commitment to millions of locations throughout the United States, AT&T’s virtualized network will be able to support those next-generation applications quickly and efficiently.

“AT&T’s 5G field trials will play an important role in ensuring rapid and wide-scale adoption of this next generation mobile technology,” Arun Bansal, Senior Vice President and Head of Business Unit Radio, Ericsson said. “5G will impact the entire mobile network – from devices to access and core to cloud – and open up exciting new IoT applications for consumers and industry, so Ericsson is enabling AT&T to move beyond 5G lab tests to gain a greater understanding of 5G’s potential in their own network environments and markets.”

“As early 5G development and trials get underway, industry collaboration is necessary to implement new network architectures and prepare for commercial availability,” Aicha Evans, corporate vice president and general manager of the Intel Communication and Devices Group added. “At Intel, we know that working with partners like AT&T and Ericsson is essential to bringing faster and more efficient wireless networks that will bring new and richer experiences to our lives.”

5G is about so much more than speed and brings great opportunity in the Internet of Things (IoT), including smart grids, connected cars, homes and cities, connected health and more and this is something we are looking forward to.
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Nixon Kanali

Tech journalist based in Nairobi. I track and report on tech and African startups. Founder and Editor of TechTrends Media. Nixon is also the East African tech editor for Africa Business Communities. Send tips to

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