AT&T is pulling no punches when it comes to 5G. The company said it will launch mobile 5G service in 12 markets this year. And it says that its mobile 5G service will be based on the 3GPP non-standalone 5G NR standard that was completed last month.
AT&T didn’t specifically say which 12 markets would be first to receive mobile 5G service. However, the company did point out that it has launched 5G Evolution, which is the company’s marketing term for an advanced form of LTE, in 23 major markets. Those markets include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento, California. Interestingly, Sacramento is expected to be the first fixed 5G market launched by Verizon.
“We’re moving quickly to begin deploying mobile 5G this year and start unlocking the future of connectivity for consumers and businesses,” said Melissa Arnoldi, president of AT&T Technology and Operations, in a statement.
The company said it will offer mobile 5G to consumers in late 2018, and also trial 5G with industries and enterprises.
AT&T pointed out several reasons that it is able to move so quickly with standardized mobile 5G service, including its developments in edge computing. In July AT&T said that it was adding intelligence to its towers, central offices, and small cells that are at the “edge” of the cloud by outfitting them with high-end graphics processing chips and other general purpose computers. By doing so, the company said it would reduce the distance that data has to travel to get processed, thereby reducing latency and boosting the network performance.
The company also noted it has been working on several pre-standard 5G fixed wireless trials in Austin and Waco, Texas, and in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and South Bend, Indiana. Those trials include residential, small business, and education customers.
AT&T’s announcement is certainly a sign of increased pressure on wireless operators in the U.S. to launch 5G. Last November, Verizon said that it planned to launch fixed residential 5G service in three to five markets in the U.S. in the second half of 2018.
Sprint is also looking at a 2019 timeframe for 5G. The company is working with Qualcomm Technologies and SoftBank to accelerate the commercialization of 5G NR in the 2.5 GHz spectrum band.