AT&T recently announced plans to roll out 5G mobile services in a handful of cities. They named Dallas, Atlanta, and Waco as the first wave, with other select cities to be tagged in the next few months. The new 5G service will follow emerging 3GPP standards, feature the ability to integrate with exigent LTE tech, and utilize non-standalone configuration as per 3GPP release 15. Further, AT&T plans to install equipment to allow easy migration to 5G.
It’s been made clear that AT&T will rely on a millimeter wave spectrum, with testing having begun in 2016. The choice creates challenges, however. Given the need for near-perfect line-of-site in millimeter wave spectrum, it may be necessary to rely on a dual-PHY network with an available sub-6 GHz spectrum as a fallback. So far, AT&T is bottlenecked by a lack of handsets that support 5G. In the meantime, AT&T is pushing vendors to adopt the proper handsets and deploying temporary devices similar to routers that will make connections possible.
For now, AT&T has plans to create 5G-enabled smartphones and devices by early 2019 while continuing to work toward virtualizing of its network, with a goal of 75% completion by 2020. With all this in mind, the next few years will be pivotal for the company.