AT&T teams with Purdue on 5G R&D lab

AT&T has teamed with Purdue College of Engineering to create a 5G research and development testbed. The lab opened Thursday with a virtual event and its first 5G demonstration.

Plans for the 5G test bed were announced a little over a year ago, when it was revealed that they’re using AT&T’s 5G+ millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum – with 5G+ being AT&T’s shorthand for its mmWave-based 5G.

Buildout for the lab was expected to be done as early as spring 2020, but given the pandemic and everything associated with 2020, a delay in opening doesn’t come as a surprise.

The testbed, located in the Indiana 5G Zone in downtown Indianapolis, also is home to AT&T’s multi-access edge computing (MEC) technologies. The MEC combined with 5G will power near real-time data collection and analysis to advance state-of-the-art technology development, the company said.

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Their first 5G demo, conducted this week, involved quantum cryptography, which, according to AT&T, takes the quantum properties of photons rather than computer code to provide a highly secure method for sending information. The demo was expected to show how communications can be encoded and securely sent across commercial networks – and be secure enough to be used by financial institutions, law firms, government agencies and others.

Last month, the Indiana 5G Zone said it was the first to demonstrate how Quantum-safe Encryption as a Service (QEaaS) transparently protects and tracks IoT data as it moves across 5G infrastructure. They used technology from California startup XQ Message, which developed a new type of API-based edge-encryption technology that’s capable of supporting all the algorithms that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is reviewing.

AT&T’s Indiana lab is expected to attract a diverse group of entrepreneurs across a range of technology companies, universities, government and other research facilities to develop 5G use cases outside of smartphones.  

“We are proud to collaborate with Purdue College of Engineering and Indiana 5G Zone. Some of the world’s greatest innovations come through collaborations with world class universities,” said Bill Soards, president, AT&T Indiana, in a statement. “5G is revolutionizing the way in which we interact with our physical environment, by connecting people, devices and experiences.”

Indianapolis was one of the first U.S. cities to get 5G services from AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile launched its nationwide 5G using 600 MHz just over a year ago, covering over 200 million people across the country.