AT&T has been saying that it believes 5G will catch on first in the business market, and yesterday the company made public a press release, white paper and web page touting its 5G business market plans. According to that material, AT&T 5G business market plans have three main pillars – mobile 5G, edge computing and, perhaps surprisingly, fixed wireless.

The inclusion of the latter is somewhat surprising in that AT&T has downplayed the possibility of deploying 5G fixed wireless in residential settings and until now, hadn’t said much about using it to serve businesses.

“Whether it’s for primary connectivity or as a secondary connection to enable reliability, businesses look to fixed wireless solutions to help serve a wide range of needs, like setting up new locations faster,” AT&T wrote in the press release.

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The company recently deployed mobile 5G in 12 markets, but its only fixed 5G deployments to date were essentially pilot projects. In the press release, though, the company notes that its current fixed wireless offering, based on earlier-generation technology, will “lay the groundwork for our customers to upgrade and take advantage of AT&T 5G when it’s available in their area.”

AT&T 5G Business Market Plans
AT&T sees the other two pillars of its 5G business market strategy – mobile 5G and edge computing – going hand in hand. As the company explains in its 11-page white paper aimed at business customers, an important characteristic of 5G will be to provide low-latency communications to support capabilities such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (VR). But those applications will require massive processing power, which may be impractical to include in every VR or AR device. A cloud-based approach would be more economical, but the cloud can’t be far away from the end user or latency will suffer.

As AT&T explains in the press release, “[e]dge computing allows businesses to route application-specific traffic to where they need it and where it’s most effective – whether that’s in the cloud, the edge of our network or on their premises.”

The company used the term Multi-access Edge Compute, or MEC, to describe its edge computing efforts.

AT&T has been touting edge computing for some time and has talked about repurposing some of its vast central office infrastructures into edge computing sites. But while this dialog previously was directed at investors and the tech community, the company is now directing it toward potential business customers.

In the press release and white paper, AT&T also offers some ideas about the kinds of applications that 5G might enable for businesses. Some examples:

  • Robotic production lines
  • Autonomous forklifts
  • AR/VR schematics
  • Health wearables that prompt you based on your medical records, real-time vitals and projected needs
  • Rapid transfer of data-intensive medical images
  • VR and AR used to virtually try on clothing, virtually remodel a home or holographically teleport customers to potential destinations to help them decide where to book their next vacation
  • Using sensors to detect how well customers like what they see in a store window based on advanced facial recognition algorithms that can interpret subtle expressions and eye movements
  • Insurance companies could dispatch drones for insurance investigations or use holographic teleportation to tour damaged property and inspect vehicles
  • Using robots for dangerous high-risk jobs currently filled by humans

AT&T noted that it is already working on 5G applications with Rush University in Chicago and with AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Updated

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