AT&T's early 5G testing alongside Intel and Ericsson, taking place at their test labs in Austin, Texas, have not only managed to smash through the gigabit barrier, a bar set earlier in the year by Verizon, but are delivering speeds that give AT&T execs reason to believe that customers can expect some seriously insane data speed once the technology rolls out commercially. Tom Keathley took the stage to discuss the company's 5G testing and future deployment plans at the recent Cowen and Company 2nd Annual Communications Infrastructure Summit. Keathley reported to audiences that the first phase of testing was complete, and that speeds have reached levels hundreds of times faster than current LTE speeds on their network.
Immobile testing at AT&T's Austin headquarters, using Intel and Ericsson's equipment, managed to hit 14 gigabits per second download speeds to a single user. When the beam was split to two users, the speed went down to a still very impressive 5 gigabits per second. This being very early testing with prototype equipment, and likely only a single cell, but Keathley did not give exact details on the circumstances under which the tests took place. The tests used super high-band "millimeter wave" spectrum, reaching up into the 30GHz range. This spectrum isn't great at reach very far or piercing buildings, so it has to be deployed using nodes and small cells. What it is good at, however, is delivering incredible amounts of data at very high speed to a small amount of users.
Keathley said that customers should be looking for future speeds that dwarf current network speeds, talking in terms of gigabits per second, rather than the megabits per second that current LTE networks can deliver. AT&T expects to be able to conduct fixed field tests by the end of the year, but at the moment, there is no definitive timeline for testing or for the beginning of deployment of 5G network equipment. The first phase of early testing, using a 15GHz millimeter wave system, has been completed, and AT&T plans to move on to a 28GHz system for testing in the near future, although there has been no word on a definite timeline for this, either.