Following the close of FCC Auction 102, AT&T won 24 GHz spectrum in 383 Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) for a nationwide average of 254 MHz. All of the licenses won were in the more valuable upper 500 MHz portion of the 24 GHz band, giving AT&T stronger nationwide coverage and additional spectrum depth and capacity in many top markets where demand is often greatest. In the top 10 markets alone, AT&T won nearly 286 MHz on average, including 300 MHz in 8 of those markets.
“We’re leading the nation in mobile 5G deployment and the large, contiguous block of spectrum we won in Auction 102 will be critical to maintaining that leadership,” said Scott Mair, president of AT&T Operations. “We’ve already been recognized for having the nation’s fastest1 and best2wireless network, and by further strengthening our spectrum position, we intend to build on our success. I’d like to congratulate and thank the FCC on the conclusion of another successful auction.”
The licenses it won cover all top 50 PEAs and 99 of the top 100 PEAs. When added to the mmWave spectrum AT&T already holds in the 39 GHz band, AT&T’s average spectrum depth in mmWave increased by two-thirds to more than 630 MHz nationwide.
AT&T will use the spectrum to bolster its mobile 5G strategy. AT&T was the first U.S. wireless carrier to introduce mobile 5G service. The company’s 5G service is currently available in parts of 19 cities – more than any other wireless carrier – with plans to reach parts of 29 cities by the end of 2019. In the first half of 2020, the company expects to have the best combination of mobile 5G, providing high speeds and low latency service over mmWave spectrum and nationwide 5G service over “sub-6” spectrum.
The company spent about $980 million to win an average of 254 MHz of 24 GHz spectrum in 383 out of about 400 total partial economic areas (PEAs) nationwide. The winnings supplement the company’s previous millimeter wave spectrum holdings in the 39 GHz band.
The key appeal of millimeter wave spectrum is that large swaths of it are available, enabling the spectrum to support the highest speeds – although service deployed in the millimeter wave band has less range than service deployed in lower-frequency bands. AT&T’s initial 5G deployments have been in the millimeter wave band, but the company eventually expects to use a combination of millimeter wave and lower frequency spectrum to support 5G.
The average 630 MHz of millimeter wave spectrum that AT&T now holds in key markets would appear to position the company well to support high speeds, as the company previously achieved speeds of 1.2 Gbps in trials using a 400 MHz channel over a distance of 150 meters.
The company also has said that it has seen speeds as high as 400 Mbps on its commercial 5G network, although it cautioned that average speeds are lower.
AT&T also noted in a press release that the licenses it won in the 24 GHz band were in the “valuable” upper 500 MHz of the 24 GHz band and that the licenses cover all top 50 PEAs and 99 of the top 100 PEAs.
Late last year, AT&T was the first U.S. carrier to launch mobile 5G service, although the company did not have a smartphone available for use with the network until last week. Customers initially used 5G-capable Wi-Fi hotspots that work with virtually any smartphone to access the network, which now covers parts of 19 cities. AT&T plans to expand to parts of 10 more cities by the end of 2019 and to launch nationwide service in the first half of 2020.
The company’s initial target for 5G service is business customers – a decision that enabled the company to plan its initial 5G millimeter wave deployments for areas in which key business customers were located. The company also has said that it hopes to command a premium for 5G service in comparison with what it charges for earlier-generation services – a strategy that U.S. wireless carriers have not used previously.
Separately, AT&T said it will work with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to help businesses harness powerful edge capabilities. The two companies have agreed to a go-to-market program to accelerate business adoption of edge connections and edge computing.
Edge computing marks a giant leap forward in providing faster processing and potentially enhanced security for business applications. AT&T Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) Services enable businesses to take advantage of AT&T cellular coverage – including 5G as it becomes available – as well as new capabilities to manage cellular traffic through virtual network functions. HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems help create use cases where applications can reside on premises for lower latency processing.
“AT&T’s software-defined network, including our 5G network, combined with HPE’s intelligent edge infrastructure can give businesses a flexible tool to better analyze data and process low-latency, high-bandwidth applications,” said Mo Katibeh, Chief Marketing Officer, AT&T Business. “Bringing compute power closer to our network helps businesses push the boundaries of what is possible and create innovative new solutions.”
Enabling edge computing is a core tenet in AT&T’s strategy to help businesses get the most out of 5G. This is an important step in bringing these technologies to scale, so businesses can continue to transform how they will use networks in the 5G era.
“HPE believes that the enterprise of the future will need to be edge-centric, cloud-enabled and data-driven to turn all of its data into action and value,” said Jim Jackson, Chief Marketing Officer, HPE. “Our go-to-market alliance with AT&T, using HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems, will help deliver AT&T MEC services at scale to help our customers more quickly convert data into actionable intelligence, enabling unique digital experiences and smarter operations.”