AT&T began installing a private 5G network and testbed at the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus which it will use to research mmWave and multi-access edge computing (MEC).

Deployment is scheduled to be completed by the year-end, offering digital learning capabilities including AR-powered visits to places including nuclear power plants or the seabed. Students may also gain the ability to submit biometric signatures, enabling instructors to use machine learning to track time spent on course materials.

In a statement, AT&T explained the network will also provide fresh R&D opportunities. It plans to collaborate with engineers from the university to research the potential of 5G and MEC to create business value in industries including defence, public safety, healthcare, education, entertainment and banking.

AT&T declared research will include ways 5G can help bridge the digital divide, stating the technology could provide rural connectivity and “render itself to portable platforms” to help students access the internet.

The operator also wants to combine 5G with sensors to improve crop monitoring and support precision agriculture.

AT&T added the US military will also use the university network, with the operator studying a potential portable communications system employing mmWave radar to penetrate obstacles and capture images blocked from view.