AT&T Throwing 5G Tech at the Wall to See What Sticks
AT&T today said it plans to test a wide variety of potential 5G technologies throughout the year as it evolves from 4G LTE to next-generation mobile broadband. For example, the company intends to kick off field trials of AirGig later this year. AirGig relies on transporting mmWaves over powerlines. AT&T engineers have invented low-cost plastic antennas, a Radio Distributed Antenna System (RDAS), mmWave surface wave launchers, and inductive power devices. These technologies push broadband signals along or near power lines, not through them, and deliver multi-gigabit wired and wireless broadband. AT&T believes this approach will pay dividends, as it can be deployed on existing power deliver infrastructure with no need to build new towers or bury new cable. The field trials aim to determine how inclement weather might affect signal delivery as well as asses real-world costs. AT&T is also testing small cells throughout San Francisco. AT&T is testing a Centralized RAN (C-RAN) architecture, which pulls the individual basebands normally associated with each cell site and consolidates them in a single location. The small cells themselves can be installed on light posts and other existing infrastructure around the city. AT&T says this approach reduces the amount of gear needed at each small cell site and lets technicians easily update lots of sites at once due to the centralized basebands. The C-RAN tests also rely on mmWave technology. Other technologies on AT&T's testing roadmap this year include G.fast and Fixed Wireless Internet. G.fast boosts the capacity of existing copper lines to that of fiber, while FWI will target some 400,000 rural areas by the end of the year. The International Telecommunications Union has yet to technically define what 5G will be, but that hasn't stoped carriers such as AT&T and others from exploring a number of potential 5G technologies.
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