AT&T Launches First US 5G Business Trial

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AT&T has launched the first US 5G business customer trial using millimeter wave (mmWave) technology.

The carrier is running multi-gigabit bandwidth in an Austin-based Intel office building.

Together, they will test Internet access, VPN, Unified Communications applications, and 4K video streams; the trial also showcases the potential of 5G VoIP over the 15GHz and 28GHz spectrum bands, and promises to hit transfer speeds as high as 14.4Gbps.

"This trial is a significant step forward," Rick Hubbard, senior vice president of networking product management at AT&T, said in a statement. "We're leaving the lab and heading into the field with a real-world business customer."

With 5G, customers will be able to download a typical TV show in fewer than three seconds, and avoid dreaded latency between pressing play and streaming.

The technology may also find its way into self-driving cars. The network's multi-gigabit speeds and very low latency will enable vehicles to quickly communicate with other connected objects on the roads, according to AT&T.

But before a formal 5G rollout can begin, industry standards must be developed—the first phase of which is expected in 2018.

"With our 5G and 4G LTE advancements, we expect speeds rivaling what we see from cable providers," Tom Keathley, senior vice president of AT&T's wireless network architecture and design, said. "Our path to 5G will help make this vision a reality faster."

The company in February announced a 5G tie-up with Ericsson and Intel, and later partnered with Nokia for system and software architecture lab work.

With the support of the Obama administration, which recently pledged to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade on research, 5G mobile networks are all the rage.

Earlier this year, reports surfaced that Google is testing mmWave technology for high-speed Internet access. Facebook is also supposedly researching networks that use extremely high-frequency bands.

Verizon last year announced upcoming field technology trials with Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm, and Samsung, which it completed in July. The company already created 5G network environments, or "sandboxes," in its Waltham, Mass., and San Francisco Innovation Centers.

The Federal Communications Commission, meanwhile, took another step toward the eventual deployment of the next-gen wireless service in August when it agreed to skip historic preservation review for small 5G cell sites across the country.

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