AT&T is now expecting to start mobile 5G tests in 2017.
Scott Mair, SVP of technology planning and engineering for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), speaking at the Jefferies 2016 Technology Conference last week, reiterated that the operator is planning 15GHz fixed wireless tests in Austin, Texas, this summer. This will be followed at the end of 2016 by 28GHz fixed 5G tests. (See AT&T 5G Trials to Start With Fixed 15GHz Tests and AT&T Will Do More 5G Tests in N.J.)
"In early '17 we'll be rotating into that mobility use case," Mair said. "We expect that we'll be doing some field deployment ... with pre-standards equipment by late '17."
Major rival Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is working on at least eight 5G test sites in the US. Big Red is planning a fixed 5G pilot sometime in 2017. (See Verizon Hits 1-Gig+ in 5G Trials, Eyes Early Applications and Verizon Will Pilot 5G Fixed Wireless in 2017.)
"We haven't been sitting still on 5G, we've been doing a lot of work in the labs ourselves," Mair says.
AT&T's early testing will be in the high-frequency centimeter wave frequencies -- 15GHz and 28GHz. The operator has so far said it is working with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) on the 5G network side and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) for devices. (See AT&T Wants to Start 5G Tests in Austin and Intel Wants to Be a 5G Player.)
Mair expects AT&T to get more catholic, however, with its radio band choices as 5G evolves. "We'll use millimeter wave but we'll also use other spectrum bands, the bands deployed today," Mair said. "As well there's the 3.5GHz that's coming. That's more WiFi-based ... it's possible we'll use all those bands."
"Initially, it's gonna be dense urban core, some suburban deployments," Mair said of future 5G millimeter deployments.
Standards-wise, Mair is expecting the Phase 1 5G standards to arrive in September 2018, with fixed and enhanced broadband wireless "use cases."
"The other two use cases that we see will come about a year later, in late '19," Mair said. These are "massive IoT," which anticipates a million networked machine-to-machine devices being deployed in an area less than a mile square. The other use case leans on less-than-a-millisecond latency connection time expected in 5G networks to start to actually make smart cities, medical devices -- and more -- a reality.
"Typically what we see from a commercial production or deployment standpoint is that it is about a year from [when] the standards come out," said Mair.
Which still puts commercial 5G deployments happening in or around 2020.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading