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AT&T shares 5G strategy for 2021

  • Apr 24, 2021

By Chris Ehrlich

DALLAS — AT&T has released the rest of its 5G plans for 2021.

AT&T shared its 5G goals as part of its Analyst and Investor Day last month.

AT&T's long-term goal is to deliver “fast, reliable and secure 5G” to more businesses, consumers and first responders across key markets: travel and transportation, education, health care, sports and venues, retail, gaming, security and public safety, according to the company.

The mobile carrier is also blending 5G with edge compute technologies to deliver new and secure experiences for many businesses. 

AT&T's believes its “combination of assets,” including those from WarnerMedia, as well as its fiber and mobility strengths leave it “positioned to win.”

“From our fiber network backbone to the layers of wireless spectrum technology, we provide 5G network coverage that delivers the speeds, security and lower-latency connections that customers and businesses need,” said Jeff McElfresh, CEO of AT&T Communications. 

AT&T’s 5G strategy

AT&T invested over $105 billion in the United States, including capital investment and acquisitions of spectrum and wireless operations, between 2016 and 2020.

The company’s 5G network covers 230 million Americans in 14,000 cities and towns, and AT&T 5G+, or mmWave, is available in parts of 38 cities in the U.S.

5G 

AT&T secured 80 mhz of spectrum and 29% of the available licenses in the recent C-band, or mid-band, auction. The company plans to start deploying this mid-band spectrum at the end of this year and into 2022 and beyond. The new spectrum will “complement” AT&T’s nationwide 5G network on low band, allowing it to deliver faster average speeds across the country. 

The mobile carrier has planned “a balanced approach to 5G.” Its strategy includes deploying 5G in both sub-6 and mmWave spectrum bands to provide a mix of speeds, low latency and coverage for businesses and consumers. 

AT&T is planning on an “emerging multi-sided business model" across 5G, edge computing and industry-specific use cases.

5G-powered business or home internet on mid-band will also expand its broadband footprint beyond fiber.

A wireless tower stands between a development of homes and open land. Courtesy Adobe.

A wireless tower stands between a housing development and open land. Courtesy Adobe.

5G and edge computing

AT&T stressed that “5G and edge compute go hand in hand.” The company’s “entire edge strategy” is based on what customers “actually need, where they need it and solving real problems.” AT&T is working on edge computing solutions for customers across various sectors: manufacturing, the public sector, health care, education, stadiums, retail and more.

As businesses use on-premises edge compute, or multi-access edge compute (MEC), to deploy a private 5G network for their business, AT&T can build or deploy an edge computing application or capability within the private network.

AT&T Network Edge brings public cloud services closer to customers at its 5G and fiber network edges. The company is working with cloud service providers to deliver optimized network routing to localized edge computing zones that can support latency-sensitive applications without dedicated on-premises hardware. It is partnering with enterprises and technology companies to trial a variety of use cases, such as autonomous drones, video artificial intelligence (AI), synchronous media collaboration and connected vehicles. 

The company will also “take advantage of new technologies” such as spatial computing to enable applications ranging from manufacturing automation to watching immersive sports.

Nationwide business broadband network

AT&T is adding fixed 5G wireless solutions to its national broadband network for businesses, which combines its business fiber network and AT&T Wireless Broadband. The business fiber network connects over 2.5 million business customer locations nationwide. 

The offering is supported by new fixed wireless router options from Sierra Wireless and Cradlepoint, giving businesses better access to 5G and the ability to optimize the speed and quality for their organization.

Travel and transportation

AT&T is working toward launching 5G+ at seven more airports this year. The initiative will cover major gate and concession spaces at select U.S. airports, where travelers and airport employees have “the greatest need.” 

The mobile carrier plans to expand its 5G footprint into the autonomous vehicle and train markets.

Education

AT&T is bringing 5G to numerous university campuses across the country, including the University of Miami and Purdue University. 

AT&T’s 5G network will provide the foundation for innovation centers, research labs and classrooms to bring virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) capabilities to students and professors for learning and teaching in new environments.

Health care

AT&T is exploring 5G-powered health care innovations with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, including how to use AR and VR in a variety of settings.  

The company is installing 5G, VR and edge computing technologies to support the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC becoming a smart facility. The facility aims to create a new paradigm in cancer research and treatment, where patients and researchers, doctors and scientists have the opportunity to interact in a community environment.

Sports and venues

AT&T is investing in infrastructure to power new experiences that connect fans to the action. The company plans to give fans richer sports experiences by deploying 5G+ in 17 venues across the country by the end of 2021, including stadiums, arenas and practice facilities.

This will bring its total of 5G-connected venues to over 40. AT&T will continue building out its 5G footprint to bring interactive experiences and holographic capabilities to fans at games as well as those watching from home, while providing new ways for teams to train and operate.

Retail

AT&T aims to "revolutionize" in-store shopping for customers by demonstrating the power of 5G. AT&T’s WarnerMedia content and innovations will help bring 5G to life for customers looking to "get closer to the entertainment they love,” from immersive AR experiences to IoT integrations.

Gaming

AT&T is committed to providing gamers and developers access to its 5G through streaming opportunities and events.

With millisecond lag time important in gaming, the lower latency of AT&T 5G+ allows for playing in near real-time without noticeable lag time or delays. The offering also makes way for more multi-player activity, making games more social and interactive.

The company will announce strategic gaming moves “in the coming months.”

Security

AT&T is monitoring the security of its network 24/7 using AI, algorithms, automation and shared alerts from other security experts.

The company is also providing remote workforce security solutions, including its Global Security Gateway, to protect work-from-home capabilities. 

Public sector 

AT&T is upgrading the network core of FirstNet, its network for first responders, for reliable and secure 5G. This initial infrastructure upgrade is built to provide FirstNet subscribers with the most optimal experience.

First responders will maintain access to LTE Band 14 spectrum, plus all of AT&T’s commercial LTE spectrum bands — with always-on priority and preemption, while also gaining access to AT&T’s 5G spectrum. 

AT&T is working with the Department of Defense on its 5G exploration efforts: 5G AR and VR training at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; 5G smart warehousing at the Naval Base San Diego, California; and 5G distributed command and control at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. 

AT&T will also bring 5G and networking-as-a-service (NaaS) capabilities to support the work of over 24,000 military personnel on U.S. Air Force bases: Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

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