5G may very well be one of the biggest terms buzzing around the tech sphere. It's being passed around as a huge leap from its predecessor, 4G, and the four major U.S. carriers, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T have increasingly carved paths toward it.
Now, AT&T is gearing up for another 5G inroad, promising to commence broader 5G test in select cities later this year.
AT&T Will Soon Deploy 5G Tests
During a "5G Evolution" event in San Francisco on Feb. 1, the carrier announced that it would officially kick off high-speed wireless network tests in Austin and Indianapolis. The 5G deployment is expected to reach initial top speeds of 400 Mbps, which is about 40 times faster than a conventional cellular network connection. This, however, isn't true 5G, but AT&T does promise theoretical peaks of up to 1 Gbps later on, which would place mobile networks on level with fiber internet.
Two testbeds will be placed in Austin, with the city set to house AT&T's 5G technology that features dedicated indoor and outdoor test locations with "flexible" infrastructure that'll pave the way for modifications and updates.
AT&T's Indigo Platform
AT&T will tap "multiple vendors" to evaluate its 5G technology. Results culled from the forthcoming test will affect its Network 3.0 — or Indigo, as AT&T puts it. Indigo is a platform meant to swap out network hardware components with software. AT&T says that data on its own mobile network has shot up to 250,000 percent since 2007, a staggering figure that software-controlled networks are capable of handling.
AT&T believes that 5G will enable applications such as autonomous vehicles, augmented reality, and virtual reality. What's more, it believes that Big Data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, internet security, and software-defined networking are facets that are just as critical to enable the experience and in turn sculpt 5G network's future.
"Indigo is unique because it will be data powered and software controlled," said Andre Fuetsch, AT&T Labs's president, and the company's CTO. "Those are powerful tools, but they also require a unique level of collaboration with software developers and other third parties."
AT&T likens Indigo not as a mobile network but as an operating system altogether, where every element of the network becomes more seamless, efficient, and capable. AT&T likes to think of it as an evolving platform.
"Think of Indigo like the operating system on your phone. We're taking that model to the network," said John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president, Technology and Operations.
Apart from its "5G Evolution Markets" planned in the coming months, AT&T is also set to begin a new gigabit Wi-Fi project it's calling "AirGig." It will rely on traditional power lines to send data via the millimeter wave band. AT&T says that it plans to work with utility companies to test run AirGig in two markets later this year.
AT&T announced recently that it has officially shut down its 2G mobile network, a move that presumably translates that the carrier will focus more on its emerging wireless network technologies.
AT&T launched a business customer trial of its 5G wireless technology in Austin last December.