AT&T is still reserved about 5G fixed wireless access solutions, the company's Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said during a recent earnings call with analysts, as reported by FierceWireless. The executive revealed the nation's second largest wireless carrier has already been testing 5G FWA technologies, with its trials showing "it can be done," yet its overall stance toward leveraging 5G to deliver a broadband alternative remains skeptical. The promise that 5G FWA is showing is "not as compelling yet, for us, as it may be for some," Mr. Stephens said.
The comment itself is widely interpreted as a dig at Verizon who has been touting 5G FWA as the first major consumer-facing benefit of the new wireless technologies, having gone as far as to focus its initial deployment efforts exclusively on that solution, whereas its 5G mobile service will only start rolling out next year. Verizon often argued prioritizing non-fixed 5G in 2018 is pointless from the perspective of consumers who won't be able to take advantage of such technologies until 5G-enabled smartphones become available for purchase in 2019, whereas they can benefit from FWA immediately after its deployment. Ultimately, not even Verizon is arguing that fixed wireless will be capable of delivering revenues that are even remotely comparable to what truly mobile services are expected to unlock but is describing the technology as a major step in that direction. The world's first 5G-compatible handsets are expected to be commercialized early next year, with Samsung's Galaxy S10 series possibly being a pioneer in the segment.
True 5G deployment in the United States is starting in late 2018, pushed by AT&T, whereas Verizon should follow suit in early 2019. T-Mobile and Sprint will also be beginning commercial buildouts next year, with all four telecom giants repeatedly promising to achieve national 5G coverage by 2020. The stateside wireless industry is presently most actively collaborating with Nokia, Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Samsung on 5G deployment, though other telecom companies are also involved in the buildout efforts, especially given the rising demand for small cells, a key component for the next wireless revolution.