2018 will be the year you can experience mobile 5G from AT&T.

AT&T plans to offer mobile 5G to customers in a dozen cities, including parts of Dallas, Atlanta and Waco, Texas, by the end of this year. They will announce additional cities in the coming months.

This is standards-based, mobile 5G and, according to the company, AT&T is the only U.S. carrier that has announced plans to deliver this ground-breaking technology to its customers in 2018.

AT&T is working on an aggressive schedule to help ensure customers can enjoy mobile 5G when they launch the network this year. They will add more 5G capable mobile devices and smartphones in early 2019 and beyond.

“After significantly contributing to the first phase of 5G standards, conducting multi-city trials and literally transforming our network for the future, we’re planning to be the first carrier to deliver standards-based mobile 5G–and do it much sooner than most people thought possible,” said Igal Elbaz, senior vice president, Wireless Network Architecture and Design. “Our mobile 5G firsts will put our customers in the middle of it all.”

How they are doing this

AT&T continues to build the foundation of 5G. We initially launched 5G Evolution last spring and plan to offer this technology broadly by the end of the year. Additionally, last fall they launched LTE-Licensed Assisted Access (LTE-LAA) technologies in parts of Indianapolis and are now live in parts of Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Their initial mobile 5G deployments this year will be based on 3GPP standards and operate over mmWave spectrum. AT&T will use mmWave to provide mobile 5G in some areas, and then will deploy the technology on additional spectrum bands.  

The way they company is implementing 5G in the initial deployments will also seamlessly integrate with current LTE technologies using the non-standalone configuration outlined in 3GPP release 15. The equipment they are deploying today on their LTE network will allow AT&T to easily migrate to 5G.

AT&T believes 5G and SDN go hand in hand. A virtualized and software-defined network lets you develop, deploy and protect new network applications faster than with a hardware-based model.

According to the company, AT&T is on the most aggressive network virtualization path that they know of in the industry. The company plans to virtualize 75 percent of their network by 2020. Their goal in 2017 was 55 percent, and they hit that mark.

The experience they company has gained by leading the industry transformation to network virtualization and software control will help their customers to get the most out of 5G.  

Ultimately, AT&T expects to reach theoretical peak speeds of multiple gigabits per second on devices through mobile 5G. While speed is important, they also expect to see much lower latency rates. With higher speeds and lower latency rates, their mobile 5G network will eventually unlock a number of new, exciting experiences for their customers.

For these experiences to become reality, you need mobile 5G powered by SDN and edge computing. AT&T is making the cloud smarter, faster and local.

The company's learnings from extensive 5G real world trials will drive their commercial deployments this year. They started conducting 5G field trials with mmWave in mid-2016 and tested 5G service with residential customers, small and large businesses and high-traffic retail locations.   

AT&T is committed to learning how 5G technologies can help transform businesses. The real world applications of these technologies could open up new opportunities for businesses across all industries to drive outcomes and engage with customers in exciting new ways.

5G Austin Lab

To help AT&T meet this aggressive timeline for mobile 5G deployment, they are opening a new 5G lab in Austin, Texas. Conducting tests there will allow them to continue their leadership in standards-based 5G mobile deployments.

The lab will be where engineers can build and test creative solutions and run “stress tests”–simulating real world customer experiences–with mobile 5G network equipment and devices from multiple vendors before they are rolled out to customers. This lab is also equipped with an outdoor 5G testbed to trial a variety of 5G applications and real world use cases.

One of the first in-house projects built at the lab is the Advanced 5G NR Testbed System (ANTS). ANTS is a first-of-its kind 5G testbed system and is proprietary to AT&T. 

ANTS will let the company test unique and forward-looking features on a simulated 5G network for eventual standardization and use on their commercial network. By re-creating a physical 5G radio environment in labs, AT&T has greater control over what is deployed to customers. 

Technologies like ANTS will let the company add advanced 5G capabilities to their network beyond baselines set by standards—creating a truly unique 5G experience for AT&T customers.