AT&T’s Fuetsch says company is still testing standalone 5G

AT&T is still in the testing phase of standalone 5G and is not saying when it will deploy the technology. Speaking today at the Brooklyn 6G Summit, a virtual event hosted by NYU Wireless, Nokia and iEEE, Andre Fuetsch, EVP and CTO of AT&T Services, said that the operator is currently testing its standalone 5G (5G SA) core that will enable cloud-native functions and network slicing. However, he didn’t provide an additional information about when it would actually launch 5G SA.  

This is a bit of a departure for the operator, which in September 2020 said that it was testing its 5G SA core and planned to fully deploy it in 2020.

AT&T has been the most vocal U.S. wireless operator when it comes to talking about the virtualization of its core network. The company announced in September 2020 that it had reached its goal of virtualizing 75% of its network functions. 

Competitor T-Mobile so far is the only U.S. operator to deploy 5G SA, The company announced back in August 2020 that it had deployed 5G SA on its 600 MHz spectrum and it was available nationwide.

During his speech, Fuetsch also highlight the company’s C-Band 5G buildout, which he said will provide a “good balance of coverage and capacity.” He said that AT&T expects to cover 70 million to 75 million people with its 5G C-Band network by the end of 2022 and cover more than 200 million by the end of 2023.

And although this event is called the Brooklyn 6G Summit, most of Fuetsch’s comments were focused more on 5G and the evolution of that technology. Specifically, he mentioned the company’s 5G Innovation Studio where AT&T is working with other companies and customers to develop 5G applications and use cases. The goal of the Innovation Studio is to help bring products to market faster and provide a space where customers can explore and try out tech using advanced network capabilities.

One example Fuetsch provided was AT&T’s work with Microsoft Azure on autonomous drone control with Israeli startup Vorpal. Using edge computing, Vorpal is able to track thousands of drones to help prevent air accidents and keep drones from creating safety issues with commercial airlines. 

As far as the future, Fuetsch said he believes we will see a “paradigm shift from 5G to the next G” and that the next G will need to have an open network architecture. He added that disaggregation of the network will be vital in a 5G world and touted AT&T’s work with Open RAN. He also said that edge computing will create new opportunities for smart cities and smart industrial uses because the increased network speeds and reduced latency will be transformational.

Note: The original article incorrectly stated that AT&T expects to cover more than 100 million people with its 5G C-Band network by the end of 2023.