By Marachel Knight, SVP Technology Planning and Engineering

The network of the future is well on its way. But, we need to build it right.  And it should be built right the first time around. 

This week, 3GPP, the international wireless standards body, completed and agreed to key elements of 5G new radio (NR) specifications. This significant milestone comes from an agreement to accelerate 5G standards earlier this year signed by 47 operators and vendors from the U.S. and across the globe.

What does this mean?

With these specifications now available, chipset, hardware and device manufacturers can now get a head start on development. And operators will be able to provide mobile 5G service sooner to customers. These key components include not only the specifications for 5G New Radio (NR), but also the non-standalone enhancements to the LTE core network interface.

This milestone fits into the broader, agreed upon 3GPP 5G schedule to establish the full 5G specifications, including the standalone option by June.

As one of the largest contributors to the standards in North America and a company committed to rolling out a standards based deployment for mobile 5G in as soon as late 2018, this milestone is critical for our success in this area.

As a result of this milestone, we were able to be part of the first standards-based 5G interoperability tests  in collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. During this test, we observed standards compliant equipment communicating with each other in a lab setting. These types of tests pave the way for additional standards-compliant trials and early 5G commercial launches.

Building a standards-based network – it’s the only way

We’re moving fast. And standards are the foundation. We’re confident this latest standards milestone will allow us to bring 5G to market faster without compromising its long-term vision.

It will take the collective industry working together to make 5G a reality. We’ve been working for years alongside dozens of major industry players to ensure we’re all in agreement on 5G standards. We’ve seen with past generations of wireless networks how companies will put out proprietary technology in the race to be first. And later they have to backtrack, leaving customers with potentially obsolete phones and gear.  We also want to ensure people can use their devices whenever and wherever they want. A standards-based approach to deployment will support that.

While we will be technologically in sync with the industry as whole, we remain as aggressive as anyone when it comes to bringing a 5G world.

Looking forward

2017 was our year of 5G trials, research and development.  Looking to next year, you’ll see AT&T get louder about our plans for 5G and how we’ll continue to influence standards, expand tests and trials, and hit our goal of launching 5G for our customers.

The industry is coming together on 5G. And we’re excited to start showing people what a standards-based 5G future looks like.