AT&T, America’s second largest carrier by subscriber numbers, has unwrapped its latest generation cellular network: ‘5G Evolution.’ This upgraded network has been publicly enabled in Austin, Texas, and is set to roll out to ‘20 major metro areas’ by the end of the year, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
AT&T’s new networking technology allows connectivity that’s twice as fast as the current LTE network but is only available to Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ customers. Though AT&T did not disclose what, exactly, constitutes their ‘5G Evolution’ network, it is clearly only a stepping stone between current LTE networking and next generation technologies.
AT&T is using a portfolio of existing network technologies and specifically mentions carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO, and 256 QAM. These existing technologies allow AT&T to increase the capacity and performance of LTE networks, and have already been introduced by other carriers across the world. There are many devices capable of using these networking technologies but all will require a software update in order to be able to utilize them. The reason why the Samsung Galaxy S8 models already have access is that AT&T prepared Samsung for the roll out. We expect the newer technologies to roll out to other smartphones and tablets soon.
AT&T hopes that the introduction of higher performance networking will help retain customers, especially after a quarter of falling subscriber numbers, seemingly at T-Mobile’s benefit. The carrier explained that it is using 5G Evolution networking to bridge the gap between current networks and 5G networks; given that 5G networking standards have yet to be finalized, this is a sensible strategy, even if adding ‘5G’ to the title appears to be somewhat premature. In order to support the newer evolution of LTE networking, AT&T continues to deploy small cell sites that are designed to boost coverage and network capacity in urban areas and places where larger cell sites do not offer great service. Finally, the next city to benefit from AT&T’s ‘5G Evolution’ is Indianapolis, due this summer.