At this point, it has pretty much been set in stone by multiple sources that 5G in some capacity is coming by 2020. With the spectrum auction coming up in March ready to shake up the wireless scene, it’s anybody’s guess as to who in the United States is going to begin deploying consumer 5G networks before the competition, not to mention in what markets and when. T-Mobile’s CTO, Neville Ray, spoke about 5G earlier, echoing the 2020 goal set out by most providers. AT&T, on the other hand, apparently went to the FCC with an application that points to a possible release target for 2018 or 2019. In addition, the application asks for permission to conduct 5G tests in and around the Austin, Texas area. Coincidentally, this is one of the areas that Google is testing their self-driving cars in, so a link is possible, but highly unlikely. It should be noted that Verizon has beaten them to the punch with 5G testing, already in bed with partners like Ericsson, Intel and Samsung and promising to be the first to deploy commercially in the United States.
The application for testing is a three year affair and would cover tests under certain spectrum in the frequencies of 3400-3600 MHz, 3700-4200 MHz, 14500-15350 MHz, and 27500-28500 MHz. The wide testing range is mostly in frequencies that are not commonly used and promise minimal interference for other commercial wireless operations in the local area. The time-frame given would allow extensive testing and trials before the Third Generation Partnership Project meets in 2018 to discuss the official standards for 5G. Hopefully, this means that realistic speed measurements and network analytics for proposed 5G networks can be obtained and used to help create the official standard.
Tests are set to involve four key fixed nodes at a test center located at 9505 Arboretum Boulevard in Austin, as well as a good number of mobile stations, mostly vehicle-mounted. The stations are to be owned and operated by AT&T, according to a document signed by Paul Hartman and David Wolter, a couple of key members of AT&T’s technical staff. AT&T’s three-year testing term will last until 2019, which means that there will likely be a quick transition from testing to commercial use shortly after, although they could cancel the testing order at any time for a commercial roll out, if they fell the equipment and network are ready.