AT&T revealed Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina; and Oklahoma City will be among the first US cities to receive mobile 5G service in 2018.
An AT&T representative told Mobile World Live it is already “hard at work” on the 5G deployment process, which entails obtaining, testing, certifying and installing standards-based mmWave 5G radios on cell sites in the designated cities.
Responding to criticism from T-Mobile US executives (who said in February the operator plans to deploy 5G “in places that matter”), AT&T said it’s deliberately choosing a mix of large and mid-sized cities, stating “all Americans should have access to next-gen connectivity to avoid a new digital divide”.
The representative said AT&T will announce the remaining six launch cities in the coming weeks, but provided a few other hints about how the operator chose its targets.
Where possible, AT&T wanted to work with cities that embrace next generation technology and were open to it installing the necessary infrastructure to make 5G a reality. However, the operator also considered other factors, including whether cities are near its hubs in Dallas and Atlanta, the representative added.
The news comes as AT&T continues rolling out what it calls a “5G Evolution” network, which employs a combination of LTE-Advanced technologies including carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO and 256QAM to offer speeds of at least 400Mb/s on compatible devices.
AT&T said 5G Evolution service is now live in 140 markets, adding it plans to extend those capabilities to more than 400 markets by the end of this year.
The operator also noted it launched LTE Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technology in a total of 15 markets, including new deployments in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; San Jose, California; Tampa, Florida; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. AT&T said with capable devices, users in markets where LAA is deployed can receive peak theoretical speeds of up to 1Gb/s.