Who is AT&T’s Special Customer Getting a Test 5G Mobile Network?

AT&T testing 5G wireless communications technology at Intel facility in Austin, Texas

AT&T is getting serious about testing its 5G capabilities for customers, and will be testing such a mobile network with a very lucky customer. No, it is not a case of a lucky Golden Ticket winner getting a chance to visit Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. In fact, the “customer” in question is none other than Intel.

Intel has been working on 5G equipment and networks aggressively for some time now, and is partnering with AT&T to run the latter’s first ever customer trials on a 5G mobile network.

The testing will be limited to a single cell with a radial range of about 300 meters. The cell will be placed at Intel’s facilities in Austin, Texas, and will provide 5G cellular network access to an area spanning more than 280,000 square meters. To put that in perspective, it is about 12 times the size of WalMart’s largest Supercenter in Crossgates Commons in Albany, New York, which is about 24,000 square meters.

At the facility, Intel, AT&T and network equipment maker Ericsson will be testing various capabilities of 5G technology, such as the ability to achieve faster Virtual Private Network, or VPN, access, 4K video, unified communications and general internet usage.

The millimeter-wave technology deployed in this 5G network will be one of the first of its kind tested with an actual customer. These wave signals can cover a much larger range than the current LTE signals, but have their own challenges, such as not being able to get through obstacles like buildings. For this reason, in densely populated areas, it will require more cells than required for the prevalent LTE technology.

The test will last for a full month, and AT&T says that they hope to achieve 5G speeds of over 1 Gigabits per second. Other 5G tests around the world have yielded up to 70 gigabits per second, but typical speeds in tests conducted this year yielded about 4 gigabits per second. But even 1 gigabit per second is really fast for a mobile network. Even existing broadband connections can only get that kind of speed on fiber networks.

The tests at Intel will involve 15 Giga Hertz and 28 Giga Hertz options, the latter of which the Federal Communications Commission made available as part of its high-frequency spectrum roll out earlier this year.

AT&T has scheduled the completion of its 5G specifications for 2019 and will make it commercially available the following year.

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