AT&T to use prestandard 5G standalone configuration at U.S. Open

AT&T will use a prestandard version of the 5G New Radio (NR) standalone (SA) configuration when it teams up to stream 4K video at the 2018 U.S. Open Championship golf tournament in June.

The FCC last week granted Special Temporary Authority (STA) to AT&T for the event, which runs June 14-17 and will tap into spectrum at 28 GHz. Fox Sports announced this week that in cooperation with the Fox Innovation Lab, Ericsson, Intel and AT&T, it will use 5G technology to stream 4K video for potential broadcast nationwide at the U.S. Open.

It's early days for Fox Sports’ involvement with 5G, which is expected to have a sizable impact on the broadcast industry.

“What Fox Sports is hoping for is twofold,” said Michael Davies, Fox Sports SVP Technical and Field Operations, in a statement provided to FierceWirelessTech. “First, we want to get an early glimpse at what 5G can offer the broadcast industry. In many ways, 5G has the potential to be disruptive to most of what we do, and this early trial is only the beginning. Secondly, it is a great way to continue to expose Intel, Ericsson and AT&T to the world of broadcast technology. With this experience in mind, we can level set together on what this technology is capable of and how it can be built to accomplish our goals.”

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AT&T confirmed to Fierce that the 5G version it’s using during the event will be Standalone, which hasn’t been finalized yet within 3GPP, so it’s using a prestandard version. The Non-Standalone (NSA) version of 5G NR was ratified by 3GPP in December 2017. The NSA version uses the existing LTE radio and core network as an anchor, while the SA version uses a new 5G core network architecture. The SA version is expected to be finalized by 3GPP in June, which is the same month as the U.S. Open tournament.

Fox Sports is providing two cameras that will be positioned on the par-3 seventh hole at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in New York, making images available to Fox Sports and its viewers through DirecTV. Ericsson is providing the 5G radio, baseband, simulated network core and 4K video encoder and decoder. Intel is providing its 5G Mobile Trial Platform, a compact device capable of transmitting 1.6 Gbs/s, which will be deployed at the seventh hole to deliver the 5G to IP translation.

The real test here is “if we can replace fiber and remove the need for satellite backhaul, we can reduce the production cost so then you can have increased choices for the end customer,” Asha Keddy, Intel vice president and general manager, next generation and standards, told FierceWirelessTech.

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Of course, Intel was involved in 5G demos at the Winter Games in PyeongChang, where it contributed technology that was used to broadcast activities in various sports. 5G demos also have been done with race cars, but golf is a little different in that it’s not as fast-moving as cars, yet the athletes are walking on the golf course and changing their location.