Wireless carriers seem to be keenly aware of the need to develop compelling 5G use cases, as evidenced by yesterday’s announcement that AT&T is working with the University of Connecticut (UConn) on a private 5G network and 5G lab to “advance entrepreneurship, innovation and data science” using AT&T 5G service operating in the millimeter wave spectrum band in combination with multi-access edge computing (MEC).

It is the latest example of a wireless carrier establishing a lab or other environment to support the development of 5G applications. Enthusiasts envision 5G and MEC having the same sort of impact that LTE and the smartphone did.

Service providers didn’t foresee the huge success of businesses such as Uber and Lyft that wouldn’t exist without LTE and the smartphone – and the providers may not foresee the specific businesses that 5G and MEC will make possible. But today’s providers are hoping that by establishing a development environment for creative minds, they will usher in the 5G/ MEC equivalent of Uber and Lyft.

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The AT&T/ UConn 5G lab will support “a broad array of technology tools and innovations that can help the university expand its work in entrepreneurship and data science,” a press release states. Specific use cases to be explored include:

  • An entrepreneurship and innovation co-op that will help budding entrepreneurs learn how to build early stage products and technology for the real estate and construction industries.
  • A data science tech incubator that will help digital startups monitor and analyze data quickly and efficiently. Use cases include real-time analysis of patient data so that care can be administered sooner, as well as improved monitoring of severe weather so that utility companies can respond faster to power outages.
  • Data science faculty fellows is a program that will use 5G for analytics and data visualization research across engineering, liberal arts, fine arts and business. The data science faculty fellows will work to produce cutting edge research with the potential for commercialization in collaboration with industry partners.

The AT&T 5G lab at UConn is expected to be completed by late summer 2021.

“5G opens the door to new business models, products, services and solutions,” said Anne Chow, CEO of AT&T Business, in a press release. “The widespread adoption of 5G technology can transform the business world across all sectors and bring exponential benefits. Leading universities like UConn Stamford are utilizing 5G to empower students and faculty to innovate and make learning come alive in the most extraordinary ways. There’s no better place for 5G to be explored than on college campuses with our next generation of leaders.”

5G Labs Galore

AT&T previous established 5G labs with several other universities, including the University of Missouri, Purdue, and others. And earlier this month, the carrier established what it is calling a “5G Innovation Studio” with Ericsson and Nokia.

Verizon is pursuing similar initiatives with Emory Healthcare and the U.S. Department of Energy. In addition, the carrier has established a 5G lab with Responder Corp. that focuses on applications for first responders and has established a “5G Innovation Hub” in Florida focused on use cases for connected healthcare, autonomous mobility, smart communities, education, retail and others.

T-Mobile also has 5G labs. Entities with whom the carrier is working on these labs include NASA and Intel, as well as the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners and the Georgia Institute of Technology. T-Mobile also has a 5G Open Innovation Lab focused on smart agriculture.

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