AT&T lifted the lid on its strategy for delivering 5G services to business customers this week.
The second-largest US wireless carrier by volume is focused on three pillars to push businesses to adopt 5G:
- Mobile 5G. AT&T launched the nation’s first mobile 5G network, along with the first 5G-capable hotspot device, in a dozen markets in December, and plans to deploy nationwide mobile 5G coverage by early 2020. In building out this network, AT&T is leaning heavily on customers in the 12 markets it’s already launched its 5G network in. This will likely give AT&T an edge over the competition, as its network will be live and running real-world connections for months before the first wave of 5G smartphones hits the market and its competitors launch their own solutions.
- Fixed wireless. The carrier is ramping up its current 4G fixed wireless service to offer multiple speed tiers, which will lay the groundwork for customers to upgrade and take advantage of AT&T’s fixed 5G service when available. The service, whether used as a primary or secondary connection, will allow businesses to deploy new locations and applications quickly.
- Edge computing. The next wave of devices and technologies, including connected and autonomous cars, VR and AR, and AI, require more rapid processing than the smartphones of today. 4G and cloud computing likely won’t be able to support optimal levels of processing for these devices, resulting in poor performance. Edge computing — or processing data locally, like in a nearby data center or on-device — will be necessary to power this next wave of technology because it’ll help support the latency and processing requirements. AT&T’s edge computing solution, the AT&T Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC), uses the carrier’s software-defined network to enable faster access to data processing. This will allow businesses to take advantage of these technologies and devices as they await full-blown 5G network rollouts.
AT&T is the first US carrier to publicly announce its complete 5G business roadmap, which can help it score early adopters, especially from its main competitor, Verizon. AT&T’s move toward making its 5G corporate roadmap as transparent as possible will likely build up the hype, which can aid AT&T in capturing eager business customers willing to jump ship from other carriers for early access.
While Verizon hasn’t fully divulged its 5G business plans, it appears to be prioritizing one solution, fixed 5G: It launched its fixed 5G Home service in four cities in October and plans to roll out mobile 5G sometime this year in a limited number of markets. Verizon’s move into fixed 5G is a play to become a leading competitor in the US home internet service provider (ISP) market, which is dominated by cable providers Comcast and Charter.
Though still early, we expect AT&T’s approach will be most efficient in capturing business customers, as the three pillars will work hand-in-hand to help drive digital transformation for a wide range of businesses.