by Joan Marsh
Executive Vice President of Regulatory & State External Affairs
A few weeks ago, AT&T planted a flag in the 5G ground by announcing our intent to be the first U.S. company to introduce mobile 5G service in the U.S. We are targeting a dozen markets to roll out mobile 5G service by late 2018. With 5G, we are building the technology infrastructure that will change the way we live, work and enjoy entertainment, for the better.
Contributions by AT&T and other industry leaders in 3GPP led to delivery of key elements of 5G standards in December 2017. As a result, hardware, chipset and device manufacturers can start development. Achieving this standards milestone allows us to bring 5G to market faster without compromising our long-term vision for how 5G will revolutionize the industry.
A key component of our 5G evolution is, of course, the deployment of denser networks, primarily through the use of small cell technologies. We are happy to report that many cities are leaning into the future through the adoption and implementation of processes and cost structures that facilitate small cell deployment. Here, we highlight three cities leaning with us into the next generation of technologies.
Indianapolis has always embraced innovation and technology advancements, and that led AT&T to name Indianapolis one of our first 5G Evolution Test Markets. Network upgrades including centralized-RAN, 4×4 MIMO and three-way carrier aggregation allowed AT&T to launch 5G Evolution in parts of Indianapolis last June. And working closely with the city, AT&T was able to efficiently deploy a small cell array.
Indianapolis adopted a streamlined permitting process that allows for small cell deployment in 45-60 days. Moreover, the state passed small cell legislation setting a maximum attachment rate of $50 a node. Now, more than 80 small cells are on air and carrying public traffic right in the heart of the city. And the speed impacts are incredible. On the Samsung Galaxy S8 – a device which takes advantage of all of the 5G Evolution technologies – customers are seeing speeds of up to 800 Mbps.
These upgrades collectively are paving the way to the next generation of connectivity in this great Midwest technology city.
Minneapolis has been a leader in promoting investment in small cell technology since 2015. That year, it established a small cell ordinance designed to encourage carriers to deploy the latest technology to support its tech economy.
The state followed up with a small cell law in 2017 that established a 90-day process for cities to issue or deny small cell permits and set a statewide $150 per year small cell pole attachment rate, with an additional $25 per year maintenance fee. The results? Minneapolis is attracting investment in next generation technology. AT&T has worked with the city of Minneapolis on plans to install about 115 small cell nodes, nearly 10 COW temporary solutions, over 160 LTE spectrum expansions and about 15 in-building solutions, some of which were showcased during the recent “Big Game”.
Now, AT&T has announced that Minneapolis is a 5G Evolution market, and we are conducting trials of both Millimeter Wave technology and G. Fast in the city. Minneapolis wanted to attract investment in next generation technology networks, and smart policies are making it happen.
A French explorer christened a certain small rock formation on the Arkansas River as “La Petite Roche” – the Little Rock. That may be how Little Rock was named, but on their current course, Little Rock is known to us as a technology friendly place.
Little Rock may not automatically come to many people’s minds as a first mover, but when it comes to technology infrastructure, they have set the bar high. They made clear their intent to be an early mover and a city of innovation; and they acted on it.
Specifically, Little Rock passed a small cell ordinance that facilitates efficient small cell deployments, supporting denser networks and faster data speeds in advance of 5G. Rather than require full zoning commission and city council approval, Little Rock created a “permitted use” standard, which shortens the review process for a small cell application from 180 days to a maximum of 60.
The Little Rock permitting process rejects the typical protracted rules approach, but instead is built on a simple two-page permitting form. And a single permit can be used for up to 25 small cells. Just as importantly, Little Rock did not look to small cell permitting to fill budget shortfalls, but instead set reasonable one-time permitting rates of $100 for five small cells and $50 for each additional small cell with a recurring annual fee of $20.
As a result, AT&T already has 29 applications pending and we are scheduled to deploy over 100 additional nodes in 2018.
These cities are creating incentives for technology investment and paving the way to better communications services for their citizens.