AT&T Plans DirecTV Now Over 5G in Austin

NEW YORK—AT&T is gearing up for a trial to deliver DirecTV Now in Austin via 5G wireless broadband in the first half of 2017. The cell network giant said it also planned to test “additional next-generation entertainment services of fixed 5G connections.” AT&T said the trial will comprise multiple sites and devices and focus on how fixed wireless millimeter wave technology handles heavy video traffic.

AT&T laid out its 5G strategy for the year earlier this month and said that in initial lab trials, they had achieved 14 Gbps with less than 3 milliseconds of latency, under the “industry expectation” of 5 milliseconds. It said that continued development of 4G LTE was integral to “laying the foundation” for 5G, or fifth-generation cellular transmission technology.The provider said it expected to reach “peak theoretical speeds” of 1 Gbps at some 4G LTE cell sites this year, and planned to deploy more small cell nodes and carrier aggregation, a method said to increase peak data speeds.

“We’re currently deploying three-way carrier aggregation in select areas, and plan to introduce four-way carrier aggregation as well as LTE-License Assisted Access this year,” the carrier said on its 5G progress website.

The DirecTV experiment in Austin comes after AT&T said it conducted its first 5G business trial there last fall Intel and Ericsson using millimeter wave technology over unlicensed spectrum, and achieving 1 Gbps up- and downloads in the first phase. Additional mobile and fixed 5G trials are planned for this year in conjunction with Ericsson and Qualcomm.

“These trials are significant because they will be our first trials to use what we expect to be based upon the 5G New Radio specification being developed by the industry technology standards group 3GPP. Industry standards are important to enabling wide-scale 5G commercialization. The trials will test both mobile and fixed wireless solutions operating in mmWave spectrum accelerating commercial deployments in the 28 Ghz and 39 Ghz bands. (See “FCC Opens High Frequencies to Phone Companies,” July 14, 2016) They will showcase new 5G radio mmWave technologies for increasing network capacity while achieving multi-gigabit data rates.”

In October 2016, AT&T announced a “multi-dwelling unit fixed wireless point-to-point mmWave trial in Minneapolis,” to reach customers outside of its 21-state wireline area, and it planned on “exploring additional markets for trial locations.”

In the wired world, AT&T said it was delivering 100 percent fiber-carried 1 Gbps (more like 940 Mbps with overhead) to “nearly 4 million locations across 46 metros nationwide,” and that by mid-2019, it planned on having “at least 12.5 million locations across 67 metro areas with our 100 percent fiber network.”

The carrier noted that is also hasn't thrown in the towel on copper, and that it continues to conduct experiments, notably in a multi-dwelling unit, also in Minneapolis. G.fasttechnology is said to enable fiber speeds over existing copper lines. AT&T said it planned more deployments this year where it still has copper lines.

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