AT&T will expand 5G trials to three additional US cities by the end of the year, as the US operator ramps up efforts to launch the technology by late 2018.
In a statement, AT&T said it would conduct fixed wireless 5G trials in Waco, Texas; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and South Bend, Indiana later this year, following the launch of its second fixed wireless trial in Austin, Texas with local businesses.
The company said it had gained “new insights” into millimetre wave (mmWave) performance and propagation since the tests in Austin, while seeing speeds of up to 1Gb/s and latency rates well under 10 milliseconds.
AT&T will now use the additional trials to increase the number of participants and expand the physical footprint for the technology, with the tests reaching universities, hospitals, churches, restaurants and other small businesses.
It will also use the tests to determine whether mmWave spectrum can travel through foliage, building materials, device placement, surrounding environment, and assess whether weather impacts the signal and system in a real world environment.
Similar to the trials in Texas, participants in the three additional cities will also be able to stream premium live TV via DirecTV Now, as well as access “faster broadband services, all over a 5G internet connection”.
AT&T added knowledge gleaned from the next 5G trials will help “speed up standards based deployment as early as late 2018”.
“Taking our fixed wireless 5G trials out of the lab and into the real world helps us learn important factors about mmWave and 5G,” said Marachel Knight, SVP, wireless network architecture and design at AT&T.
AT&T is conducting the trials in collaboration with Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia and Intel.
The US operator added it is: “aggressively deploying equipment, investing in the right mix of spectrum and technology, and laying the foundation for our evolution to 5G while 5G standards are being finalised”.
AT&T first said in March it was targeting late 2018 for early commercial launches of standards-based 5G deployments.
Major rival Verizon is also aiming for a 2018 launch, and is currently conducting pre-commercial trials for fixed wireless 5G in 11 cities.
It’s important to note that these early 5G efforts are focused on fixed wireless services, not true mobile services (which won’t be available until after official 3GPP specs are defined for 5G).