Network Theatre

AT&T’s 5G Launch Is a Pre-Game Show

There’s always something about being first.

This week, AT&T announced at its Innovation Summit in San Francisco that it would begin testing 5G services in Austin and Indianapolis in the coming months. Fifth-generation services are being rolled out without end-user equipment or final standards. But this is what a pre-game show looks like.

There’s no doubt that 5G is still one of the industry’s buzz words and the term will certainly be thrown around at Mobile World Congress 2017.

AT&T’s test markets will enable it to showcase the wireless technology with theoretical peak speeds of 400 Mbps. Although that’s about five times faster than the carrier’s current wireless connectivity speeds, it’s well below the expected standard for 5G. This is a display of new cross-generation network architecture.

AT&T is piggybacking on the 5G term to promote its Indigo platform, which stresses software-defined networking, big data and artificial intelligence. The carrier expects these technologies will be used in 75 percent of its networks by 2020 and AT&T is even open-sourcing the code for its network’s orchestration platform, ECOMP.

AT&T likens Indigo not to a mobile network but to an operating system, where every element of the network becomes more seamless, efficient, and capable. The carrier sees Indigo as an evolving platform.

“Indigo is unique because it will be data-powered and software-controlled,” said Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and the company’s chief technology officer. “Those are powerful tools, but they also require a unique level of collaboration with software developers and other third parties”.

Fifth-generation technology promises huge advances in speed, capacity and low latency. We expect the roll-out of 5G to enable and widely disseminate technologies such as the Internet of things, self-driving cars, augmented reality and virtual reality. What was considered science-fiction just a few years ago is now being prototyped, tested, and piloted. And AT&T is at the forefront of this transformation.