AT&T CEO: US Ahead in 5G

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

ajwdct1 9/18/2019 | 12:25:11 PM
AT&T's 5G+ will not be a mass market winner What Stephenson did NOT state is that deploying mmWave based 5G involves more than climbing every cell tower (to deploy base stations there). Today, AT&T brands its 5G mmWave service as 5G+. That's very unlikely to be the mass market winner.

Due to very short range of mmWave spectrum (mainly in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands), it will require tens of thousands of small cells that require local government permits to be approved so they can be deployed on light polls, street poles, rooftops, sides of buildings, etc. This will be an extremely cumbersome and lengthy process.

There's a growing view that mmWave spectrum may be best-suited for niche 5G applications, especially in cities. "The focus on mmWave spectrum has left most U.S. carriers apart from Sprint without large mid-band holdings which are key to 5G deployment in other countries," Morgan Stanley analyst Simon Flannery said in his recent note to clients.

"Mid-band spectrum offers more balanced coverage and capacity characteristics than high-frequency and will likely serve as the workhorse for 5G," UBS analyst John Hodulik said in a recent report to clients.

"Carriers need sub-6 GHz spectrum for mobile 5G," Hodulik told IBD. "MmWave spectrum is not practical for mobility. The range is too short and power requirements too high."

Read more analysis at https://techblog.comsoc.org/2019/09/17/att-ceo-stephenson-att-has-fastest-wireless-network-will-have-5g-nationwide-footprint-by-mid-year-2020/
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