Not to be left behind in the race to introduce 5G by 2019, AT&T has stressed that it has begun testing a 15 GHz configuration in partnership with Ericsson and Intel, and is on course to introduce a 5G network to its customers by 2019. AT&T's statement came in response to Verizon's claims that it will be the first carrier to launch 5G wireless in the U.S., earlier than any other network carrier. AT&T has, however, stated that migrating to the 5G network will not be an easy task and implementing the next-generation wireless network within the timelines will be tough.
"We haven't been sitting still on 5G. We've been doing a lot of work in the labs ourselves. There's going to be a lot of labs work going on, a lot of labs testing, lots of proofs of concept. There's going to be some level of field deployments going on as well, as everybody is learning in this space," said Scott Mair, senior vice president of technology planning and engineering at AT&T Services. Mair was delivering a lecture at Jefferies 2016 Technology Conference in Miami where he also said that the carrier will begin testing a 28 GHz configuration as well as a fixed wireless configuration by the end of the year. According to Mair, commercial deployments of new-generation wireless networks usually begin a year after standards are issued and as per current timelines, the Phase 1 5G standards are expected to be issued by September of 2018. However, AT&T will conduct a series of trial runs in advance to test the concept and to fix shortfalls before the next-generation wireless network is officially rolled out. As of now, AT&T will prioritize mobile and fixed wireless networks before it turns its attention to the Internet of Things architecture and is set to conduct the first of its trial runs of the mobile network concept early next year.
Back in March, it came to light that AT&T was considering using License-Assisted Access (LAA) technology as an alternative to using LTE-U (unlicensed spectrum) to implement a 5G network in the future. While LTE-U lets carriers use unlicensed spectrum to offer LTE networks via carrier aggregation, the LAA technology is more legal in nature and has been designed in line with 3GPP standards. LAA observes a ‘Listen before talk’ protocol which reduces interference and enables data transfer after ensuring that the lines are clear. However, Verizon and AT&T aren't the only players who are talking about 5G. Back in February, T-Mobile confirmed that they will begin testing 5G later this year but also said that customers should not expect 5G to arrive in a workable form any time before 2020. According to T-Mobile's John Legere, there is no uniform standard for 5G as of yet which is accepted everywhere and handset capabilities should also be taken into account while talking about future ultra-fast networks.