AT&T plans to collaborate with Ericsson and Intel to work on 5G solutions in their labs starting in the second quarter of this year, with outdoor tests and trials over the summer. The company expects field trials of 5G technologies to provide wireless connectivity to fixed locations in Austin before the end of this year. The trials will help guide AT&T's 5G standards contributions, and set the stage for widespread commercial and mobile availability once technology standards for 5G are established.
AT&T expects 5G to deliver speeds 10-100 times faster than today’s average 4G LTE connections, which generally averages in the 10 Mbps to 20 Mbps range for users downloading data. In adition, 5G latency - how long it takes after you press play on a video app for the video to start streaming on your device - will in the range of 1 to 5 milliseconds.
The advent of 5G will be more efficient and cost-effective for carriers. AT&T plans to build its version of 5G on a software-centric architecture that adapts quickly to new demands. That means AT&T will deliver 5G in connection with software defined networks (SDN), big data, new security tools and open source software.
SDN is expected to allow AT&T to virtualize 75% of its network by 2020. In 2015, about 6% was virtualized, a number that should reach 30% in 2016. SDN that uses open source software will save costs, as well.
With a virtualized network, AT&T can turn routers, firewalls and other network equipment into virtual functions that run on commodity hardware, primarily servers.