The new five-year deal will see them work with Ericsson to further expand their 5G network and support the deployment of 5G services using the recently acquired C-band spectrum
Back in February, AT&T was the second biggest spender in the enormous US C-band spectrum auction, spending $23.4 billion to win 1,621 licenses in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band. The largest spender was rival Verizon, who dominated the auction with an overall spend of $45.45 billion, as both operators try to catch up with the large amount of mid-band spectrum already held by T-Mobile.
By June, AT&T was already testing the newly acquired spectrum, making the first 5G field test calls. At the time, the company said it was aiming to over 200 million people with 5G using C-band spectrum by the end of 2023, noting that this would greatly outpace Verizon’s own deployment.
Now, Ericsson has announced that they have signed a new deal with AT&T to help the US giant expand their 5G rollout, support the deployment of C-band spectrum, and prepare for the launch of standalone 5G.
The new five-year agreement includes the use of various Ericsson solutions from their Radio System portfolio, including the Advanced Antenna System, Advanced RAN Coordination and Carrier Aggregation technologies. The deal also supports a centralised RAN architecture via Ericsson’s Fronthaul Gateway tech, as well as covering future network enhancements like Cloud RAN.
“As we continue to expand our nationwide 5G network, Ericsson’s technology offerings and 5G expertise will assist with our network evolution. This latest agreement provides the pathway for us to deploy Ericsson’s next-generation centralized RAN architecture, enabled by Fronthaul Gateway, with the ability to support future network enhancements, like the evolution to Cloud RAN,” said Scott Mair, President of AT&T Network Engineering and Operations.
It is interesting that Cloud RAN is mentioned here. Earlier this year, AT&T signed a deal with Microsoft to begin shifting their network operations to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. The transition will begin with the core of the network, with the entire network cloud ported to Azure over the next three years.
AT&T says this shift to the cloud will help reduce their operating costs and allow them to leverage a wider ecosystem of software developers for their 5G needs.
How has the C-band spectrum auction changed the playing field for US operators? Find out all about the next steps at this year’s Total Telecom Congress