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Buying DirecTV has given AT&T an edge in 5G

February 22, 2016 - Written By Alexander Maxham

AT&T’s Strategy Chief, John Donovan was speaking in Barcelona today at Mobile World Congress and had some pretty interesting things to say. Some of the more interesting parts of his visit included the fact that by buying DirecTV, his company now has an edge over Verizon in deploying 5G technologies. Now, Verizon has already started field trials for 5G, as was announced today by the company, and they expect to be testing it in larger markets by the end of the year. AT&T has been pretty quiet on 5G so far compared to their rival, Verizon.

DirecTV was acquired by AT&T for $48.5 billion in 2015. It’s now clear that AT&T had more in mind then just cable television. 5G wireless networks are going to have much larger capacity when compared to 4G LTE networks, in fact it’s supposedly going to have around a thousand times the capacity. This means the networks will be able to connect to at least 100 billion devices, also download speeds are expected to reach around 10 Gigabits per second. That’s a huge improvement, considering most heavily populated areas now see speeds of around 10 megabits per second – some more dense areas around 100Mbps.

Now to get that kind of capacity and speed, these networks are going to need to be supported by existing fixed-line infrastructure. DirecTV already has a pretty widespread fixed-line network, and that will be a huge boost for AT&T when it comes to 5G. Donovan stated, “we are in a better position because we have a fixed line proposition which is becoming much more interesting now with 5G.” To counter the statement from Donovan, Verizon’s spokesman Jim Gerace stated “AT&T has followed us in every turn of technology – wireless and wired – and they will again with 5G.”

While Verizon is already doing field tests of 5G, and AT&T is looking to start theirs later this year, the global telecom industry is not planning to release official standards for 5G until around 2018. We’ll likely see other carriers in the US and other countries, also beginning their field trials for 5G before the standards are officially set for 5G. Hopefully they don’t run into the issues that Sprint did by adopting WiMax as 4G, before everyone else jumped on the LTE bandwagon.