AT&T (T) To Launch 3GPP Mobile 5G Services In Late 2018

U.S. telecom behemoth AT&T Inc. T is planning to offer standards-based mobile 5G services to consumers from late 2018. Last week, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) decided to accelerate some elements in the 5G New Radio (NR) specification. This along with the addition of47 global operators and vendors gave AT&T’s 5G launch plans a shot in the arm.

Per the expedited schedule, 5G NR specifications are to be completed in Dec 2017. This basically supports a ‘non-standalone’ 5G standard that uses LTE to control 5G data connections.

Since AT&T supports both non-standalone and standalone options for the 5G standard, the new timeline will accelerate the availability of hardware for both options. Each operator will be able to select the option that fits the deployment plans. AT&T has also worked with 3GPP to find out how users can start with the non-standalone option and then gradually move on to the standalone network. This will be part of its AT&T Network 3.0 Indigo platform. All capabilities will run on its Open Network Automation Platform.

The 3GPP Release 15 5G specification is expected to be completed in Jun 2018, including both standalone and non-standalone options. These will distinguish the path from LTE to non-standalone and standalone, and give a rough idea of demand for 5G-enhanced mobile broadband use. Release 16 5G, which lays out massive Internet of Things (IoT), low-latency use cases and more, is set to be completed in late 2019. Together the two releases are expected to cover all 5G use cases and requirements specified by 3GPP and the International Telecommunications Union.

Ahead of 5G services, AT&T is also planning ‘mobile-first’ 5G trials in 2017. The second trial is expected to start in Apr 2017 in Austin. The trial will allow residential and small-to-medium business customers to stream DirecTV NOW and access next-gen entertainment and enhanced broadband services.

AT&T has been quite ahead of other wireless carriers in relation to 5G network trials and 3GPP standards for 5G. In Jan 2017, AT&T joined Ericsson ERIC and Qualcomm Inc. QCOM to test the initial 3GPP 5GNR specification in the second half of 2017. The trio had planned to deploy 28GHz and 39GHz spectrum bands, using Qualcomm’s prototype devices and Ericsson’s base station solutions. Then AT&T came up with a deal to acquire FiberTower and its millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum assets as part of its 5G network strategy, on Feb 1.

Similar 5G Trials

Last week, Verizon Communications Inc. VZ has also started conducting field trials for its upcoming 5G wireless network with partners in 11 U.S. cities. The company is looking at mobile hotspot and home-based fixed wireless for the initial deployment of the next-generation 5G wireless networks in the U.S. in 2018. However, a full-phased 5G wireless network will be offered only in 2020.

Bottom Line

5G marks a revolution in the field of communications and technology. It is the next major phase of mobile telecommunications standards after the 4G/IMT standards.

The 5G network will provide 50 times the throughput of the currently available 4G LTE network. Further, 5G technology is designed to be more power efficient than any other available standard wireless network. Therefore, 5G-enabled mobile devices are likely to last longer than their 3G or 4G counterparts. Moreover, superfast 5G mobile networks will be of utmost importance for the management of the exponential growth in Internet-connected devices, popularly known as IoT.

It is expected that 5G mobile handsets will be available in the market by 2020, following a broader rollout of the technology. The commercial 5G handsets will be first made available in South Korea and Japan and are likely to be exorbitant.

Over the past three months, AT&T returned 2.21%, while the Zacks-categorized Wireless National industry declined 1.21%.

AT&T currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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