The early days of 5G are marked by limited availability largely in high-value metropolitan markets. As operators establish this foothold and consumers with compatible devices tap the new network, it’s important to continually enhance LTE networks to provide service continuity as users move into our out of 5G zones. Reflecting this trend, AT&T, which plans to light up 5G in a dozen markets by year-end, said its growing its gigabit LTE footprint (dubbed by the company as 5G Evolution) to cover 99 new markets.

Key technological elements of gigabit LTE include higher-order 256 QAM, 4×4 multiple-input, multiple-out and multi-channel carrier aggregation. In addition to using carrier aggregation to essentially bond together disparate licensed spectrum holdings, carriers are using License Assisted Access to join licensed and unlicensed spectrum to create bigger data pipes.

Kevin Peterson, AT&T Mobility and Entertainment’s senior vice president of device and network experiences, wrote in a recent blog post characterized 5G Evolution efforts as “laying the foundation” for 5G. With the addition of the 99 new markets, AT&T will offer 5G Evolution in 239 locales. By the end of this year, Peterson said the gigabit LTE network will be deployed in more than 400 markets, followed next year with nationwide coverage. On the LAA piece, that’s live “in parts of 20 cities with plans to reach at least 24 cities this year.”

Peterson wrote, “5G Evolution markets are locations where we’ve deployed technologies that enable peak theoretical wireless speeds for capable devices of at least 400 megabits per second…With LTE-LAA, the network technologies have a peak theoretical wireless speed for capable devices of 1 gigabit per second.”

AT&T plans to stand up 5G services this year in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, San Antonio and Waco. That’ll be followed in “early 2019” by activations in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose.


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