AT&T is poised to have a "5G footprint nationwide by mid-year" 2020, company chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York.
AT&T is due to have a lowband 5G spectrum network up next year. This is expected to be in the 700MHz band, although Stephenson just described it as "our most desirable spectrum" without adding more details.
Stephenson credits AT&T's FirstNet build for helping with much of the company's work on 5G. "You have to go out and climb every cell tower," he says of the FirstNet build. This means that AT&T was also able to install 5G ready lowband equipment at the same time.
Ma Bell presently has 21 5G markets up in the US using highband millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum. Stephenson says that T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon are all going "aggressively" for 5G markets in the US. In fact he considers the US ahead in 5G.
"In China, I'm not aware of any 5G systems up and running," he said. "In Europe I'm not aware of an RFP [request for proposal] out."
At the moment, China is still in the buildout phase of 5G. While in Europe, EE has just launched a 5G network in London.
Stephenson also talked up the benefits of 5G. For instance, he says that 5G can handle "millions" of devices on a cell and locate objects to within "centimeters" rather than meters. The networks, he added, will also be "real time" and help with the "virtualization" of functions -- an initiative that AT&T has already been pursuing aggressively.
"All of a sudden, when you have 5G networks you push a lot of functions to the edge," Stephenson said.
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— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading