At the 5G North America event here today, Brian Daly, AT&T’s director of core network and government regulatory, said the company’s 5G plans include using network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) as the underlying enablers of network slicing. That, in turn, will allow the operator to carve out different slices of the core network. Those slices could be divided up for things like enhanced mobile broadband, or context-aware networking, which Daly described as giving the network more awareness of the end user and what that user needs to accomplish a certain task.
An example of context-aware networking might be a network slice devoted to a big enterprise customer that wants certain applications and preferences. “It makes the network more aware of what the end user needs,” Daly said, adding that SDN and NFV will give AT&T and other operators the tools to provide users with the ability to do things they couldn’t do on prior network generations.
5G Trial Progression
AT&T has been fairly open about its various 5G trials. The company has talked about 5G testbeds and how critical they are because it can use them to test equipment and software from multiple vendors to see how they interoperate. And it also has said these testbeds allow the company to test equipment outdoors, indoors, and in mobile situations.
Building on these details, Daly said that AT&T has started its friendly user trials to both residential and small and medium business users and will soon begin a 5G video trial this month that will stream the company’s DirecTV video service to residential and business customers.
He also said that AT&T will be working with Qualcomm and Ericsson to conduct mobile and fixed 5G trials in the second half of the year that will use the 5G New Radio (NR) specification developed by the 3GPP.