AT&T continues to build its cellular network on an evolutionary path to 5G by expanding the cities served by what the carrier calls "5G Evolution" technology.
5G Evolution, which encompasses 4x4 MIMO, 256-QAM modulation and carrier aggregation, is not really 5G, rather capabilities defined by the 3GPP in the LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro specifications. AT&T is also adding LTE-LAA — which uses carrier aggregation in the 5 GHz Wi-Fi spectrum to increase data rates — to the mix.
5G Evolution and LTE-LAA are complementary and increase downstream data rates. AT&T said its 5G Evolution technology can deliver theoretical peak speeds up to 400 Mbps for compatible devices, twice as fast as standard LTE. LTE-LAA can deliver theoretical peak speeds up to 1 Gbps for compatible devices.
Devices able to use the technology include the Samsung Galaxy lineup — S8, S9, S8+, S9+, Note8 and S8 Active — and the LG V30 and Moto Z2 Force Edition.
In a press release, AT&T said it will add the 5G Evolution service in parts of 117 new markets, bringing to 141 the total number of markets with the service. The service provider plans to deploy 5G Evolution capabilities to more than 500 markets this year, including parts of Baltimore; Charlotte; Cleveland; Denver; Detroit; Jacksonville, Florida; Kansas City; Las Vegas; New York City; Philadelphia; Portland; Raleigh, North Carolina; Salt Lake City; Seattle and Washington, D.C.
AT&T also said it is adding LTE-LAA service to parts of three new markets — Boston, Sacramento and McAllen, Texas — bringing the total number of markets served to seven. The company plans to enable LTE-LAA in at least 24 markets this year.
AT&T previously launched LTE-LAA service in Chicago's Loop, around the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, in downtown Los Angeles and the financial district of San Francisco.
First to 5G
Earlier this year, AT&T announced plans to be the first U.S. carrier to deploy mobile 5G to customers, planned for a dozen cities, including parts of Dallas, Atlanta and Waco, Texas. These mobile 5G deployments will leverage data from AT&T's 5G fixed wireless field trials, which are achieving speeds nearing 1 Gbps using millimeter wave spectrum.
Melissa Arnoldi, AT&T's president of technology and operations, said, "We're building a 5G network that will fundamentally change the way the world lives and works. 5G will provide a wireless experience that is faster, more responsive and more secure for our customers."