AT&T’s latest 5G fixed wireless trial will take place in a highly trafficked consumer location and will incorporate the company’s FlexWare virtual network functions (VNF) platform. This is the first time FlexWare is being used in a 5G trial.
The trial is taking place at the Silos at Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas. According to AT&T, about 5,000 people visit the Silos every day to shop at Magnolia Market, Magnolia Seed and Supply, eat at the food truck park or at Silos Baking Co., or spend time at the garden.
AT&T’s fixed 5G trial will use millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum in conjunction with WiFi access points to blanket the area with coverage. Consumers will be able to connect to the network using WiFi on their existing cell phones. Magnolia workers will use the 5G network in their mobile point-of-sale devices and also in their back office operations.
AT&T will test 5G radio and antenna prototypes, and it will use FlexWare as a type of router for the 5G network. Specifically, the company said that FlexWare will handle switching and controlling functions and that the FlexWare traffic will be distributed to Wi-Fi devices via LAN switches.
FlexWare, which was originally called Network on Demand but rebranded to FlexWare last year, primarily uses AT&T’s Integrated Cloud (AIC) platform for service orchestration. It also uses software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) to provide software control of different functions for enterprise customers.
Although AT&T didn’t say that this trial would also be testing multi-access edge computing (MEC), FlexWare can be used to offer MEC-capable services to enterprise customers.
AT&T said it will expand the Silos trial to additional participants in Waco, including small businesses, residential customers, churches, and educational institutions.
5G and Virtualization
AT&T has been one of the most aggressive operators in terms of virtualizing its network, so it’s not particularly surprising that it is incorporating FlexWare into its 5G trials. The operator has said it is on track to virtualize 55 percent of its network by year-end and could exceed its previous guidance of 75 percent virtualization by 2020.
Update: This article was updated to reflect that this is the first time FlexWare is being used in a 5G trial.