AT&T expands fixed wireless 5G trials to 3 cities

AT&T said it will expand its fixed wireless 5G trials to three more cities by the end of the year.

The nation’s second-largest carrier announced plans earlier this year to conduct a variety of 5G network tests involving enterprises, residential users, and fixed and mobile iterations of next-generation technologies. It has since launched trials in Austin, Texas, and this morning AT&T said it will extend that effort to residential customers in Waco, Texas; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and South Bend, Indiana.

“In Austin, we see all types of weather and substantial foliage,” said Marachel Knight, senior five president of wireless network architecture and design at AT&T, in a press release. “Taking our fixed wireless 5G trials out of the lab and into the real world helps us learn important factors about mmWave and 5G. And in doing so, we’re learning how to better design our network for the future.”

Participants in the trial will be able to watch streaming live TV via AT&T’s DirecTV Now and access faster broadband services over a 5G internet connection. AT&T said its Austin trial has provided speeds as high as 1 Gigabit per second and latency rates “well under” 10 milliseconds.

The carrier said the expansion will allow it to continue to test both fixed and mobile wireless offerings in millimeter-wave spectrum in the field, enabling it to accelerate standards-based deployments as soon as late next year. Participants in the expanded trials may include colleges, hospitals, churches, restaurants and other small businesses.

“We’ve been testing and demonstrating 5G technologies with AT&T for over a year and now we’re expanding the scope of our trial to AT&T customers in Waco,” said Joakim Sorelius, head of product area network systems at Ericsson, in the announcement. “By testing the technologies in the live commercial-like environment and trialing new 5G use cases together, we are able to gain valuable experience in preparation for commercial deployments based on 3GPP New Radio technology.”

Other partners in AT&T’s trials include Intel, Nokia and Samsung.

Both AT&T and Verizon are looking to fixed wireless to push the 5G envelope, testing new technologies and strategies as they help develop standards for next-generation networks. But not everyone in the wireless industry believes fixed wireless will play a crucial role in 5G.

“The duopoly’s 5G strategy is basically a series of hotspots,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in May. “That’s no solution for mobile 5G overage, or coverage anywhere outside a small area downtown.”