AT&T Launches 5G Business Customer Trial Aimed At Rivaling Wired Broadband Speeds

Telecom giant AT&T has kicked off an enterprise trial using "5G" wireless technology, and Intel is the first customer.

AT&T is working alongside telecom equipment provider Ericsson using millimeter wave (mmWave) technology for the test. The two companies are providing a high-bandwidth cellular network service in one of Intel’s Austin offices, and they expect to see connectivity speeds that rival (wired) broadband internet speeds that cable providers offer today.

True 5G standards are still in development and aren't expected to be finalized until 2019, with commercial deployments expected in 2020. The 5G business customer trial at Intel's offices is the first of its kind in the U.S., according to Dallas-based AT&T.

[Related: The State Of 5G Technology: Where Telecoms Stand]

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The month-long trial, which will use one cell site and cover an area approximately 300 meters at one of Intel's' facilities, is a "significant step forward," according to AT&T's senior vice president of networking product management Rick Hubbard.

Ericcson said that the trial would take the industry closer to 5G commercialization because it will help to validate the feasibility of outdoor-to-indoor mmWave coverage for business customers.

MMWave is one of the technologies that is expected to be one of the main components of 5G, once finalized.

"We expect mmWave technology to be an important part of 5G," AT&T's Hubbard said in a statement. "The trial will help accelerate our 5G work by shedding new light on how the technology acts in a business environment."

No channel partners are involved with the trial, an AT&T spokesperson told CRN. However, the provider has said that there will be opportunities related to 5G network access for partners down the road.

During the trial, AT&T expects to use cellular speeds faster than one gigabit per second to test multiple business use cases and applications that have been relying on broadband network services. These use cases will include virtual private networking, unified communications applications, and 4K video, AT&T said. The provider also plans on using the trial to test the potential of 5G VoIP over the 15GHz and 28GHz spectrum bands.

AT&T may be conducting the first business customer trial, but competitor Verizon shared that it had been doing field trials of 5G in the U.S. in March. Back then the Basking Ridge, N.J.-based telco said it was planning a commercial launch of 5G as early as 2017.