at&tAT&T announced several big moves involving 5G wireless today, including plans for deployments in Austin and Indianapolis and a new platform dubbed Network 3.0 Indigo that will use software defined networking (SDN) and will underlie AT&T 5G networks.

Austin also will house two new 5G testbeds that AT&T expects to have operational in early spring. Among other things, the testbeds will support trials in Austin using fixed wireless 5G to stream AT&T’s DIRECTV NOW OTT video offering, along with “enhanced broadband services for residential and small-to-medium business customers.”

The Austin and Indianapolis 5G markets will be launched “in the coming months” and will support “theoretical” peak speeds of 400 Mbps or higher with compatible devices, AT&T said today. The company noted that it plans to continue densifying its network and deploying technologies such as carrier aggregation and LTE license assisted access (LAA), which will enable theoretical peak speeds up to 1 Gbps in 2017.

AT&T Network 3.0 Indigo
Faster speeds are not the only goal of 5G, however, and that’s where Network 3.0 Indigo will come in, AT&T said.

“People won’t ask how fast their connection is,” the company observes in today’s press release. “They’ll ask ‘Can I livestream a virtual reality broadcast of my trip to the beach?’ or ‘Can my bank securely authenticate a purchase I want to make when I’m traveling?’”

According to the company, 5G will help enable applications such as those, but such applications also will require Big Data, artificial intelligence/ machine learning, cybersecurity and SDN.

“All of that is Indigo,” AT&T said.

John Donovan, AT&T chief strategy officer and group president of technology and operations, described Indigo as the “third generation of modern networking.”

The term, he said, defines a world in which “it isn’t just your connection speeds that are accelerating, but every element of the network becomes more seamless, efficient and capable.”

He also likened Indigo to a smartphone’s operating system, but for the network.

Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and chief technology officer, noted that Indigo will be “data powered and software controlled.”

Indigo will require “a unique level of collaboration with software developers and other third parties,” he said. As a result, AT&T expects the open source community to play an important role. Previously the carrier said it planned to make its ECOMP orchestration platform for SDN available to the open source community and today’s actions also included officially announcing that ECOMP will be part of an open source project hosted by the Linux Foundation.

AT&T’s Austin 5G testbeds also aim to further collaboration with potential vendors. The company said testbed participants will work on 5G technology concepts for both fixed and mobile 5G, test network infrastructure and devices and explore 5G signal coverage for the 28 GHz, 39 GHz and sub-6GHz frequency bands. The testbeds will support indoor and outdoor testing and will feature “flexible infrastructure to allow modifications and updates as 5G standards develop,” AT&T said.

Also part of AT&T’s big news today: The company said its network virtualization goal for year-end 2017 is 55%. The company said it already has converted 34% of its network functionality to SDN and is on its way to 75% by 2020.

Image courtesy of flickr user Mike Mozart.

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