In partnership with Nokia, Ericsson, Intel and Samsung AT&T intends to expand fixed-wireless 5G tests to an additional three cities later in the year. The three cities in which the trials will be expanded to include Kalamazoo, Michigan; Waco, Texas; and South Bend, Indiana. Currently AT&T is conducting 5G tests in Austin, Texas where latency of under 10 milliseconds and speeds of 1Gbps have been experienced.
In the three trials the telecommunications giant will be using 5G solutions and equipment from Nokia, a mobile trial platform for 5G from Intel, 5G virtualized core and 28GHz radios from Ericsson and a 5G router from Samsung. From the trials AT&T intends to find out whether millimeter wave technology is capable of travelling through buildings and foliage. AT&T also intends to find out the effects of weather on the signal. Deployment of the service is expected late next year.
The fixed-wireless service will be the first 5G technology application and is potentially a future rival to high-speed internet services provided by cable firms. One of its advantages is that it is cheaper deploying it compared to fiber.
During the trials faster broadband services will be tested with the last-mile connection to a business or home being conducted through a radio signal using millimeter wave technology. Those who have been picked to participate in the trials will be in a position to stream the DirecTV Now service via 5G. Some of the advantages expected to be derived from streaming via 5G include shorter lag times. Lag will also be reduced with regards to virtual reality gaming and video conferencing.
Verizon Communications, AT&T’s competitor, is also carrying out pre-commercial fixed-wireless trials in eleven cities. And just like AT&T it is also expecting to launch the service next year. According to New Street Research’s analyst, Jonathan Chaplin, fixed wireless services would most likely be targeted at niche markets that lack existing broadband infrastructure.
“If there is physical infrastructure, the business case for fixed wireless becomes pretty challenging. You’re more likely to get more reliable service over fiber,” said Chaplin.
In the recent past both Verizon Communications and AT&T have been acquiring millimeter wave spectrum as they prepare to roll out fixed wireless services. Three months ago the two engaged in an asset bidding war where Verizon Communications managed to acquire Straight Path Communications at a price of $3.1 billion which was double what AT&T had initially offered.