Updated October 7wireless-antenna

AT&T revealed today that it is trialing a 100 Mbps competitive fixed wireless broadband service to “multiple” apartment complexes in Minneapolis, a CenturyLink market.

The AT&T broadband wireless offering is particularly noteworthy in that it is being offered outside the company’s traditional local service territory in competition with other providers for fixed broadband – and according to a press release, the company hopes to expand the offering to other out-of-footprint markets.

The AT&T broadband wireless offering initially will support speeds up to 100 Mbps per customer using millimeter wave spectrum in a point-to-point configuration.  But the company said it plans to make faster speeds available – “likely a speed tier of 500 Mbps” – in the trial properties.

Additional out-of-footprint broadband wireless service plans will depend on the success of the Minneapolis trial, AT&T said. Other markets under consideration for possible expansion include but are not limited to Boston, Denver, New Jersey, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle and Washington D.C.

AT&T Broadband Wireless
Millimeter wave spectrum lies in ultra- high-frequency bands which traditionally were not considered appropriate for wireless communications because of relatively short range, in comparison with traditional cellular offerings. But the thinking now is that service providers will extend backhaul networks to support higher-bandwidth shorter-range service.

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AT&T’s release notes that the company will bring fiber to a “central building” from which the millimeter wave wireless connectivity will be delivered. A company spokesperson was not able to immediately reply to a request from Telecompetitor asking the distance between that building and the apartment buildings it will serve but said she would get back to us. We will publish an update whenever we hear back on that. (story continues below)

Inside the apartment building, AT&T said the new offering will rely on existing wiring or, if needed, AT&T will install in-building wiring. The company also noted that it will offer DirecTV video to the apartment buildings receiving the AT&T broadband wireless offering using a single satellite dish on the building.

AT&T also was not immediately able to respond to a question about whether the company was using licensed spectrum to support the offering and if so when and how the company acquired the licenses. If, as is likely, AT&T is using licensed spectrum, the markets it targets will be dependent on where it holds licenses. Here, too, we will publish additional information whenever it is provided.

AT&T’s news is the latest example of growing interest in high-speed fixed broadband wireless technology. Verizon also has been active in the area and plans trial deployments next year using 5G in a fixed configuration. Verizon announced plans to acquire XO Communications in order to obtain spectrum suitable to support those deployments.

Google Fiber also just completed an acquisition that will enable competitive fixed wireless services in multiple markets across the country

Update:
The AT&T spokeswoman got back to Telecompetitor to say that AT&T holds a nationwide license to provide service in the 70GHz-80Ghz spectrum band.  AT&T acquired the license in 2009, she said.  As AT&T has done for this trial, licensees register use of site specific spectrum links in this band through the FCC’s registration process.
Using the technology AT&T has chosen, the wireless signal can travel up to 2 miles, the spokeswoman said.

Image courtesy of flickr user Stefano Brivio.