AT&T tees up multiple 3.5 GHz test sites in Ohio, Tennessee

AT&T, which last year revealed plans to use the 3.5 GHz band for fixed wireless services in 2019, is continuing to evaluate the band, applying for a six-month Special Temporary Authority (STA) to conduct tests in parts of Ohio and Tennessee. The company is affording plenty of time for planning;  the application seeks an April 15 start date, ending Oct. 15, 2019.

“Applicant will conduct testing to evaluate network and product performance prior to production under expected use conditions in an actual performance environment,” the application states. “Applicant’s testing and the expected experimental equipment would support potential fixed wireless applications, including video and data transmissions.”

Specifically, AT&T wants to conduct the tests at 10 sites in Ohio and seven sites in Tennessee, including in Memphis. Plans call for using equipment from multiple manufacturers and a total of 34 units.

AT&T’s Gordon Mansfield explained during a CBRS Alliance session at Mobile World Congress Americas last fall that the company intends to use the 3.5 GHz band initially for fixed wireless services and the next priority is private LTE or industrial applications. AT&T, with a history in driving edge computing capabilities, believes it can offer compelling services to the manufacturing space, he said.

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He also said the initial use cases will have to be very targeted where the operator controls the end-to-end ecosystem, both the device and the infrastructure. While there are devices being certified, it takes time for devices to get into the mass market hands of consumers, but in the meantime, it can start in these two areas while the industry matures and the penetration of devices broadens, he explained.

Even though AT&T is pursuing a mobile 3GPP standards-based 5G service first, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson certainly made it clear during Tuesday’s earnings call that AT&T is interested in 5G as a residential broadband replacement product.

Just like everybody back in the 1990s said wireless would never serve as a substitute for fixed line voice because there wasn’t sufficient capacity, wireless will prove to be a substitute for broadband in the home. 5G will provide the kind of capacity necessary to serve the needs of consumers for their streaming video needs, whether it be for DirecTV or Netflix, he said.

“Over time, three- to five-year time horizon, unequivocally, 5G will serve as a fixed broadband replacement product,” Stephenson said. “I am very convicted that that will be the case.”