AT&T seeks experimental license for 5G tests in Austin

AT&T (NYSE: T) is asking the FCC for a three-year experimental license to conduct fixed and mobile tests in the 3400-3600 MHz, 3700-4200 MHz, 14500-15350 MHz and 27500-28500 MHz bands with "various types of experimental wireless equipment" in Austin, Texas. The operator isn't revealing who is supplying the equipment.

The redacted public version of AT&T's application doesn't specify exactly what it's up to, either, but it says the tests are expected to support potential 5G multi-Gbps applications for fixed and mobile communication networks at higher transmission rates and lower latency than is currently available. The experimental system would support voice, video and data transmissions and "lead to innovation, as 5G radio technology has not been used to provide commercial service" in these or any other spectrum bands, according to the document, which was spotted by wireless consulting engineer Steve Crowley.

AT&T wants to begin its experiments in these bands now to allow for trials before the 3GPP 5G standards are finalized in the 2018-2019 time frame. The proposed experiments would involve base stations transmitting signals to and receiving signals from experimental equipment located on board mobile vehicles and on fixed stations in and within five kilometers of the Austin area.

The company is also seeking a waiver from having to disclose certain specific equipment information before an experimental license is granted. It says certain equipment data is not provided even in the confidential version of its request because the proposed prototype equipment is still being developed by multiple manufacturers and it can't provide model numbers or the antenna orientation in the horizontal plane, for example.

AT&T has been a stickler about not promising too much in 5G before the standards are hammered out and written. In its application, the company says it expects multiple iterations of 5G equipment will be developed and delivered for testing over at least the three years, as initial specifications for 5G gear are not targeted for release until 5G standards are released in 2018 and 2019.

Rival Verizon (NYSE: VZ) was first to announce last September that it would be testing 5G this year. It's been charging full steam ahead with its 5G Innovation team, which includes vendors like Ericsson, Cisco, Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung and Nokia. Ericsson also has been tooling around the streets of Stockholm in vehicles big enough to support its 5G "phone," which is an oversized device at this stage, with plans for miniaturization later.

During the company's fourth-quarter earnings call last month, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo promised that his company will be the first to deploy 5G in the United States.

For more:
- see this FCC form

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