AT&T is moving on the second trial of a 5G service with subsidiary DirecTV. The trials are set to eventually include greater use of software-defined networking (SDN) and virtualized radio access network (vRAN) technologies.
The carrier said the latest trial is similar to the initial test using millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum to deliver 5G services in Austin, Texas. The new trial is using Ericsson’s 5G RAN and Intel’s 5G Mobile Trial Platform.
Customers participating in the trial will be able to stream live television via the DirecTV Now service. AT&T said the trial will last several months, and that it plans to drive results from the program back into the 5G standards process currently being undertaken by the 3GPP.
“By conducting the trial with a variety of audiences – residential, small business, and enterprise customers – using DirecTV Now and other applications, we expect to gain new insights into mmWave performance characteristics needed for industry standards development,” AT&T noted in a statement.
The carrier said it’s also working on the role of SDN in controlling network assets, and that it plans to “experiment with new virtualized-RAN core network capabilities later this year.”
AT&T has been one of the telecommunication industry’s most aggressive operators in terms of network virtualization plans. The carrier said it virtualized 34 percent of its network functions by the end of 2016, is on track to hit its year-end 2017 goal of 55 percent virtualization, and could exceed its previous guidance of 75 percent control by 2020.
Rival Verizon last month conducted a multivendor test of 5G technologies that included a Cisco virtualized packet core, as well as a vRAN product, 5G radio base stations, and home routers from Samsung.
Virtualizing the RAN is the process of separating functions from a traditional remote radio unit or base station to run them as virtualized network functions (VNFs) on commodity hardware. The move is designed to reduce operating costs and increase performance and scalability as operators move toward 5G deployments.
A report earlier this year from Mobile Experts found that full virtualization of the RAN is working, “but there are some technical limitations in energy consumption and other factors that limit its adoption to major equipment manufacturers and operators.”
China Telecom SDN, Cloud Work
AT&T today also announced an agreement with China Telecom to work on industry standards for SDN and cloud-based big data services. The telecom giants said the work will include ways to accelerate adoption of those platforms.
China Telecom is the country’s largest fixed-line service provider and third-largest mobile operator. The carrier earlier this year announced work with Huawei on network slicing, which is considered a core feature of 5G technology.