AT&T starts offering 5G fixed wireless for business customers

5G fixed wireless service is on the table for AT&T business customers, the carrier announced Wednesday.

The added capability comes alongside new fixed wireless routers from Sierra Wireless and Ericsson’s Cradlepoint that are available starting in April.

5G fixed wireless adds to AT&T’s wireless broadband and business fiber network, which currently delivers fixed and wireless connectivity to more than 2.5 million business locations.

Plan options include service with up to 50 Mbps or 100 Mbps, with access to AT&T’s 5G low-band network, 5G+ using millimeter wave, and LTE for data.

Customers will need to have 5G-capable devices and be in areas where 5G+ service is located if they want AT&T’s high-band flavor of 5G - which at this point is only available in very limited parts of specific cities.  

Whether AT&T is planning any new mmWave deployments to align with the new business customer offer remains to be seen. So far deployments have largely focused on venues and high-traffic urban areas.

“We’re always investing in our 5G network deployments, and will be happy to share more soon,” a spokesperson said via email in response to questions from Fierce.

No word yet on whether CBRS will be part of the mix. Last year, AT&T announced partnerships with Ericsson and Nokia to deliver private cellular networks to enterprise using CBRS spectrum.

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As for Wednesday’s announcement, AT&T said the new choice of routers are key because businesses can use fixed wireless as a primary connection, a secondary for enhanced reliability, or to set up a temporary work site. 

It also pointed to the shift to work-from-home, saying 5G fixed wireless with the new routers can help deliver a secure connection that’s separate from employees’ home broadband service.

“It is now almost a full year since the global pandemic accelerated remote work adoption by almost a decade – and throughout the rapid evolution of related business needs, AT&T has been there to enable continued success,” said Mo Katibeh, Chief Product and Platform Officer, AT&T Business, in a statement. “And today, we’re excited to build on the first, true nationwide business-focused broadband network with fixed wireless 5G connectivity.”

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Two years ago, AT&T cited fixed wireless as one of the main three pillars of its approach to 5G for business, alongside mobile and edge computing.

Verizon is bringing 5G fixed wireless to some Walgreens or Duane Reed-branded stores this year as part of a Network as a Service agreement reached last December that covers more than 9,000 retail stores.

On the residential side, AT&T hasn’t been pursuing fixed wireless as vocally as competitors T-Mobile and Verizon. 

Verizon’s 5G Home fixed wireless service is available in select parts of 18 cities currently, and in 2020 expanded 4G LTE FWA across 48 states. T-Mobile has been piloting 4G LTE for home broadband, with plans for 5G this year.

AT&T has a point-to-point fixed wireless offering for home broadband in some rural areas.

Speaking in December AT&T’s Igal Elbaz, SVP of Wireless Access and Technology, mentioned different ways of serving broadband, with mmWave spectrum as one option.

“We just think the good use of our investment is actually to build mmWave on our RAN deployment,” Elbaz said at the time.  “Wherever we build small cells, we can use the same infrastructure to service mobility and wireless home internet.”