Despite some concern over whether there are sufficient motivation and uniformity for carriers to push for 5G implementation, AT&T has announced some headway this week. Speaking via the company's official blog on March 14, President of AT&T Labs and CTO, Andre Fuetsch, said that a new decision regarding acceleration in the 5G new radio timeline from the 3GPP has allowed the provider to accelerate its own timeline. The company now plans to launch customer services that adhere to 5G standards by as early as late 2018. To that end, the carrier is following up on earlier business-customer trials – which took place in Austin Texas – with a new trial and the expansion of its mobile-first video service. The second trial is scheduled to take place in April of 2017 and will utilize Ericsson's 5G RAN and Intel's 5G Mobile Trial platform. For that trial, "residential and small-to-medium business customers" in Austin will be able to stream DIRECTTV NOW and access "enhanced broadband services." More plans are also in the works for cities and AT&T labs in multiple cities and will be revealed over the next year.
The decision by the 3GPP to accelerate the standards process also has implications for 5G hardware, which Fuetsch points out is the most lengthy part of implementing a new standard for networking. Until the standards are completely set for both stand-alone and non-standalone 5G, with regards to hardware, the company to runs the risk of having to backtrack on its previous implementations if those standards change. Those standards are expected to be set by June 2018 under the accelerated timeline, which likely explains the company's current timeline. By accelerating components of the standards to do radio technology, chipset development could begin as early as December of 2017. That's 6 months earlier than previously expected but he is quick to explain that, while AT&T is as aggressive as any other carrier in its approach, the company is being careful not to get ahead of itself.
Fuetsch says that AT&T's standards team found the company to be the "top North American wireless carrier contributor" to the 5G standards since 2016. The company also claimed that more than 137 petabytes – that's 137 followed by 15 zeros – stream across its network on an average business day. When coupled with the company's claimed 250,000 percent growth in data traffic over just the last decade, it becomes easy to understand why 5G is going to be required to keep up with demand and why AT&T is so excited about the newly accelerated standardizations