Telecoms operator AT&T, which recently demoed a future 5G mobile network that could deliver Mobile Broadband speeds of nearly 14Gbps (Gigabits per second), has become one of the first in the world to move their 5G tech into the customer trial phase with a special 1Gbps product for business users.
The customer trial, which is supported by technology from both Ericsson and Intel, will take place in one of Intel’s Austin offices (Texas, USA) and this suggests that it will be a fairly short-range indoor trial rather than a more representative wide-coverage outdoor service.
Apparently the trial itself, which will harness the high frequency 15GHz and 28GHz spectrum bands via millimeter wave (mmWave) technology, won’t be quite as quick as the earlier demo and will only harness a little over 1Gbps of bandwidth to test “multiple enterprise proof of concept use cases” (e.g. Internet access, VoIP, VPN, 4K video streaming, unified communications etc.).
Rick Hubbard, AT&T’s Senior VP for Networking, said:
“This trial is a significant step forward. We’re leaving the lab and heading into the field with a real-world business customer. We expect mmWave technology to be an important part of 5G. The trial will help accelerate our 5G work by shedding new light on how the technology acts in a business environment.”
Elsewhere Nokia and Verizon in the USA are already aiming to launch a similar customer trial of their own during early 2017 (here). Meanwhile BT / EE and Nokia are teaming-up in the UK to prepare an early 5G trial at their Adastral Park Labs facility in Ipswich (here).
Progress is clearly being made, although we don’t expect to see a final standard for the technology until 2017/18 and most of the necessary radio spectrum even won’t be available to use in the EU and UK until around 2020.
The new 5G networks are likely to be much more sophisticated and dense than existing setups, which may suit urban areas. However the benefits could be harder to deliver outside of big towns and cities, where 5G will need to use more traditional lower frequency bands for better coverage; usually at a cost to speed.