The latest AT&T 5G trial, announced today, will be in Waco, Texas and will use 5G as the backhaul link to support Wi-Fi connectivity at the Silos – a shopping, dining and recreation area operated by Magnolia, the home and lifestyle brand of Chip and Joanna Gaines. The Gaineses are the stars of the HGTV design show “Fixer Upper.”
The AT&T 5G trial is using licensed millimeter wave spectrum in the 28 GHz band, an AT&T spokesperson noted in an email response to a Telecompetitor inquiry. The trial will use 5G between the cellsite and a customer premises device located approximately 175 meters away, the spokesperson explained.
The customer premises equipment (CPE) will deliver an Ethernet feed to a Wi-Fi system controller communicating with access points spread throughout the grounds, he said. Visitors to the Silos, who number about 5,000 daily, will be able to use the Wi-Fi capability of their mobile devices to connect with the access points.
Although an AT&T press release refers to the trial as the company’s largest in terms of mobile traffic, it isn’t a mobile deployment in the sense that the term is normally used. The spokesperson noted, for example, that the trial will not involve testing of hand-offs.
AT&T 5G Trial
The AT&T 5G trial at the Silos also offers AT&T the opportunity to test another important technology for the company – network virtualization.
“The implementation is using our virtualized Wi-Fi switch . . . and is anticipated to handle much higher levels of traffic, with many more individual end users, than previous trial locations,” the spokesperson said.
As AT&T noted in a press release, the virtualized equipment will use the carrier’s network functions virtualization platform known as AT&T FlexWare.
Previous AT&T 5G trials have involved fixed wireless service to individual households and businesses and were not focused on public Wi-Fi. Eventually, the company plans to support 5G mobile wireless service directly to 5G handsets, but AT&T – like its rival Verizon and some other companies – is focusing first on 5G fixed wireless because the standards are more mature than those for mobile 5G.
AT&T also noted that it plans to expand the Waco 5G trial to additional participants in the area.