AT&T to showcase 5G in Austin, Indianapolis this year

AT&T said it will launch its first “5G Evolution Markets” in the coming months in Austin, Texas, and Indianapolis, and it will build two new 5G test beds set to go on air this spring at the AT&T Labs in Austin.

AT&T said it expects its wireless network to offer theoretical peak speeds of 400 Mbps or higher, and as it continues to densify its network and deploy technologies like carrier aggregation and LTE-License Assisted Access, it expects to enable theoretical peak speeds up to 1 Gbps in some areas in 2017.

Last fall, AT&T launched what executives believe to be the industry’s first 5G business customer trial in Austin. The two new test beds will support its existing 5G work, as well as trials using a fixed wireless 5G connection and the ability to stream DirecTV Now and access enhanced broadband services to residential and small-to-medium business customers in Austin. AT&T announced the DirecTV Now trial last month.

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The test beds will include dedicated 5G outdoor and indoor test locations and feature flexible infrastructure to allow modifications and updates as 5G standards develop, the operator said.

“We will work with multiple vendors to evaluate advanced 5G technology concepts for both fixed and mobile solutions, test network infrastructure and devices and explore 5G signal coverage for the 28 GHz, 39 GHz, and sub-6GHz frequency bands,” AT&T said in a press release. “We believe the massive bandwidth and low latency of 5G will help enable applications like self-driving cars and mobile augmented reality and virtual reality headsets.”

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5G is just one part of AT&T’s Indigo 3.0 network evolution strategy that AT&T discussed during its Innovation Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday. Other elements are big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning, cybersecurity and software-defined networking.

It was no accident that AT&T picked Silicon Valley as the location to unveil its latest moves. “This is the beginning of dialog,” John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of Technology and Operations, told the audience. “This isn’t announcement day. This is the start of a dialog with the community for a very different AT&T. So when we look at Indigo, … what you’ll see is a different AT&T.”

AT&T also said the cloud-based AT&T Control Center, powered by Cisco Jasper, will now have greater security by adding AT&T NetBond connectivity, adding another layer to its Internet of Things offerings. The connection travels through the AT&T Virtual Private Network, isolated from public internet risks.  

AT&T also turned millions of lines of its ECOMP code over to the Linux Foundation for placement into open source. ECOMP, for Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy, has been described as the operating system for developers to build network apps around.  

The goal of the project with the Linux Foundation is to deliver the capabilities for the design, creation, orchestration, monitoring and life-cycle management of Virtual Network Functions in a software-defined networking environment, according to Chris Rice, SVP of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design, in a blog post.

AT&T has said its move toward a software-defined network will help it launch services faster and save money by using commodity, off-the-shelf hardware instead of specialized, expensive equipment. By releasing the ECOMP platform to the open source community, part of the idea is to get more participants to improve upon it.