AT&T Acquiring Straight Path to Bolster Spectrum Holdings, 5G Strategy - Page 2

Both firms are better funded and are using that advantage to aggressively build out their 5G capability and take the fight back to T-Mobile and prevent customer incursions from each other."

In February, rival Verizon announced that it will start its first commercial 5G trials with up to 500 residential and business customers in 11 metro areas across the United States by mid-2017 after limiting earlier trials to laboratory testing, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

The Verizon 5G trials will be launched in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Atlanta, Ga.; Bernardsville, N.J.; Brockton, Mass.; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Houston, Texas; Miami, Fla.; Sacramento, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; and Washington, D.C. The 5G trials will begin with some 400 to 500 total residential and business customers across the 11 metro areas and will pick up where previous in-lab and field tests of 5G systems have left off.

Verizon began its 5G field trials initiative in early 2016, even as most consumers and businesses were still embracing 4G LTE, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Verizon began the trials with a range of partners—including networking technology vendors Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems, Ericsson and Nokia Networks and chip makers Qualcomm and Samsung—to test 5G concepts and make recommendations for standards that will be created later to implement the new, faster technology.

Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research, told eWEEK that AT&T's latest purchase makes sense. "AT&T certainly seems to have less of the relevant high-frequency spectrum than Verizon at this point, and so it's playing catchup here a little bit," he said. "This one acquisition, though, isn't going to get AT&T where it needs to be with regard to that spectrum, and it's probably going to need to make additional acquisitions to get there."

5G is expected to offer as much as 50 times the throughput of current 4G LTE and latency that will drop into the single milliseconds. It's also expected to play a significant role in the rapidly growing Internet of things (IoT) as the number of connected devices creating traffic over the world's wireless networks continues to grow.

AT&T began its own 5G field trials in the summer of 2016, along with partners Ericsson and Intel, after conducting its own lab development and testing. 

International standards for 5G networks are still being developed by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partner Project), which gave the go-ahead to the 4G LTE standard. In March 2015, the 3GPP rolled out a tentative timeline for 5G that doesn't show a standard for the technology being approved until 2020, though that hasn't stopped networking technology vendors and component makers from making moves to embrace 5G.