Number two US operator AT&T offered up a little more detail on its 5G trial plans during this morning’s keynote session at the Brooklyn 5G Summit, as well as its hopes for commercial performance of the next-generation technology.

In February the company followed rival Verizon by announcing plans to work with Ericsson and Intel on outdoor tests and trials over the summer.

Tom Keathley, SVP – Wireless network architecture & design, said AT&T will extend its current lab testing to an outdoor test in Austin, Texas, this summer.

att“We’ll start with 15GHz tests and then move to 28GHz. It will predominantly be fixed wireless,” commented Keathley. “A main aim is to find out how millimetre wave technology works and then we’ll pour back the learnings into the standards work.”

Keathley also noted that the operator is using the 15GHz band – an unusual move – simply because “it’s what we could get and actually start with. The 28GHz equipment wasn’t going to come until later this year and we didn’t want to wait.”

AT&T’s decision to focus on fixed wireless for the tests echoes that of rival Verizon.

Fragmentation threat
Commenting on the launch timeframe of commercial 5G technology, the AT&T man warned of a threat of “fragmentation” as operators deploy pre-standard equipment. South Korea’s operators, for example, have announced intent to launch some form of ‘5G’ technology for the Winter Olympics in February 2018. But, as Keathley pointed out, the first official release of a 5G standard isn’t expected until mid 2018, with phase two following by the end of 2019 (hence industry consensus that most operators will launch 5G from 2020).

att path to 5gAnd he reckons there’s a lot of life left in 4G, quipping that he wouldn’t be surprised if some of the features that will be added to 4G technology (see image left) in the next year or two (as part of 3GPP Release 13 and 14) will cause some marketing executives to prematurely dub such progress as ‘5G’.

“We’re going to run Gb/s in the LTE lifetime. So what does 5G have to do?” mulled Keathley. “Well it needs to exceed that. 5G has to go beyond this. We’re thinking 5Gb/s and beyond, maybe as high as 20Gb/s.”