AT&T announces Dallas, Atlanta, Waco as three of first cities to receive 5G service
Parts of Dallas, Atlanta and Waco will be among the dozen cities this year where AT&T will deploy standards-based, mobile 5G services that ultimately will provide users with low-latency connectivity and data rates of multiple gigabits per seconds, the carrier announced today.
In addition to Dallas, Atlanta and Waco, AT&T announced that it plans to identify nine other U.S. cities where the carrier will roll out mobile 5G this year, according to a company press release.
“After significantly contributing to the first phase of 5G standards, conducting multi-city trials, and literally transforming our network for the future, we’re planning to be the first carrier to deliver standards-based mobile 5G – and do it much sooner than most people thought possible,” Igal Elbaz, AT&T’s senior vice president of wireless network architecture and design, said in a prepared statement. “Our mobile 5G firsts will put our customers in the middle of it all.”
AT&T’s 5G announcement comes less than two weeks after the carrier closed a $207 million deal with FiberTower that provided the telecom giant with substantial millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum rights. Although the FCC ruled that AT&T could not obtain FiberTower’s 24 GHz spectrum rights in the acquisition, the deal has provided AT&T with “average holdings of more than 375 MHz in the top 100 markets” in the 39 GHz spectrum band, according to a company press release issued to announce the close of the FiberTower acquisition.
“Our initial mobile 5G deployments this year will be based on 3GPP standards and operate over mmWave spectrum,” AT&T stated in today’s press release. “We will use mmWave to provide mobile 5G in some areas, and then we will deploy the technology on additional spectrum bands.
“The way we are implementing 5G in the initial deployments will also seamlessly integrate with current LTE technologies using the non-standalone configuration outlined in 3GPP release 15. The equipment we are deploying today on our LTE network will allow us to easily migrate to 5G.”
AT&T’s ability to deliver mobile 5G services this year is largely attributable to preparatory work completed during the last few years. The carrier launched 5G Evolution last spring and has deployed LTE-Licensed Assisted Access (LTE-LAA) connectivity in parts of Indianapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In addition, AT&T has been aggressive in its implementation of software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV), with 55% of all network functions being virtualized by the end of 2017.
“The way we are implementing 5G in the initial deployments will also seamlessly integrate with current LTE technologies using the non-standalone configuration outlined in 3GPP release 15,” according to today’s AT&T press release. “The equipment we are deploying today on our LTE network will allow us to easily migrate to 5G.
“We believe 5G and SDN go hand in hand. A virtualized and software-defined network lets you develop, deploy, and protect new network applications faster than with a hardware-based model.”
While 5G promises to deliver faster data throughputs than previous generations of wireless service, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson repeatedly has stated that 5G’s low-latency characteristics may have the most impact on society, because they enable a host of new technological opportunities, particularly in the areas of smart cities and autonomous vehicles that require real-time control.
In March 2017, AT&T was awarded the contract to build, operate and upgrade the FirstNet system—the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN)—for the next 25 years. At that time, AT&T officials announced that FirstNet public-safety subscribers would have priority and preemptive access to the AT&T network operating across all of the carrier’s spectrum bands, not just the 700 MHz Band 14 airwaves that are licensed to FirstNet.
Of course, AT&T did not own the spectrum rights to the 39 GHz airwaves from FiberTower at the time of its priority-and-preemption announcement. When asked whether the priority-and-preemption policy also would apply to AT&T’s mobile 5G network, a company spokesperson acknowledged the stated philosophy but noted that AT&T officials have not yet stated the carrier’s position on the specific matter.