AT&T Expects 5G Commercialization Within Next Couple Years

June 22, 2017 - Written By Mark Real

AT&T expects that 5G technology will see wide-scale commercialization by the year 2019, with fixed and wireless 5G solutions rolling out by late 2018. The earlier estimate in commercialization is brought about by quicker than expected development of standards by the 3GPP. The said group approved the earlier implementation of the non-standalone component of the 5G New Radio standard, with the entire implementation expected to be completed by mid-2017, rather than 2018. It is likely that hardware and chip standards supporting 5G New Radio will be released by the end of the year. Given the much earlier completion of the non-standalone implementation of 5G New Radio, AT&T will then start deploying 5G networks by the latter part of the year 2018, with widespread availability of the said service likely to be achieved by the year 2019.

The non-standalone implementation of the 5G New Radio pertains to the deployment of 5G technologies on spectrum currently being used by LTE networks. These include not only the licensed frequencies but also on unlicensed ones like those currently used for 5GHz Wi-Fi. The deployment of 5G will result in improved data speeds, reduced latency, and improved network capacity. While the components of the 5G New Radio standards covering the mobile broadband services have been accelerated, other components of the 5G standard, which include the networks designed for IoT devices and road sensors, will still be released by the year 2020 or even a bit later.

As the wireless industry progresses into the deployment and commercialization of 5G networks, carriers are expected to spend a considerable amount of money for base station and network backhaul upgrades. A recent report estimates that the carriers will spend around $21 billion to deploy 5G networks. In return, the carriers may utilize 5G networks for other use cases, giving the companies more ways to capitalize on their investments. One of the possible use cases is the deployment of fixed 5G, which will allow the carriers to provide a viable option to wired internet connections in areas either neglected by internet service providers or simply unreachable by the current technologies. In addition, carriers may also develop data plans specifically for manufacturers who may wish to install sensors in their products.