Using Qualcomm tech, AT&T completed first sub-6 GHz 5G data transfer
AT&T is currently offering up a commercial 5G service based on its millimeter wave spectrum holdings but the carrier is working to extend its 5G offering into sub-6 GHz frequencies. That effort hit a milestone this week with the company and its partners completing a data transfer in the field using sub-6 GHz spectrum.
While the 5G focus in the U.S. is currently on millimeter wave frequencies to deliver enhanced mobile broadband and the focus in the rest of the world is mid-band 5G deployments, the broader vision is a blend of low-, mid- and high-band to provide a balance of high capacity and geographic coverage–think a combined T-Mobile US and Sprint with 600 MHz, 2.5 GHz and millimeter wave.
In a blog post, AT&T’s Igal Elbaz, senior vice president of wireless technology, laid out the goal: “We believe deploying 5G in both mmWave and sub-6 bands will provide the best mix of speeds, latency and coverage… And although there are many more milestones to reach on the road head, this one gets us closer to making those experiences a reality for both businesses and consumers.”
AT&T’s millimeter wave network has supported speeds in excess of 2 Gbps downlink throughput. “By contrast,” Elbaz wrote, “5G sub-6 speeds won’t be in that range, but we do expect it to offer a good balance of impressive speeds over broader distances.”
For the purposes of this field test, AT&T said it used a 5G modem, RF transceiver, RF front-end and test device provided by Qualcomm.
Taking a wider look at AT&T’s spectrum holdings, the carrier currently has 3G operating in the 850 MHz and 1900 MHz bands. The company has said it plans to discontinue 3G service in 2022. For LTE, AT&T uses a mix of 700 MHz, 850 MHz, 1700 MHz, 1900 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz. So while it’s not immediately clear which sub-6 GHz holdings would go toward 5G, the carrier has some options.
AT&T has set mid-2020 as the goal for delivering nationwide 5G coverage. “After making our first data transfer over Sub-6GHz spectrum in the field this week,” Elbaz wrote, “AT&T is a step closer to introducing 5G over sub-6 spectrum, with plans to offer nationwide 5G in the first half of 2020.”
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