Deeper Dive—T-Mobile, AT&T hype AR opportunity on 5G networks

T-Mobile and AT&T both took to an investor conference this week to hype the augmented reality possibilities enabled by 5G networks.

At an Oppenheimer conference Tuesday, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray talked about mid-band spectrum deployments happening within his company’s network and said that speeds will be approaching 400 megabits per second in some markets as 2020 ends.

“And as we move through '21 and we can add even more spectrum, that number starts to tick up even further than that. So, the great story is that that mid-band layer is incredibly powerful in terms of speed and performance. On a standalone architecture too, you get the latency benefits,” said Ray, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

T-Mobile believes that similar to how LTE networks helped make mobile video mainstream, 5G networks will make technologies like AR and VR more popular among mobile users. Ray said he’s very excited about the wearable space and that he sees a lot of opportunity for AR. T-Mobile is currently testing industrial use cases at its cell sites to help technicians like traditional hardhats with an AR-capable visor.

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“So, early days, but if we can do that in our little space of industry, imagine how many opportunities exist across broader industries, be that oil and gas or medical professionals,” said Ray. “There's so many opportunities in the AR space. And then you come to the consumer and ultimately, I fully believe in '21, we'll start to see really lightweight, highly capable AR glasses start to hit the market. They’re going to be small, but over the next four to five years I think that's going to be a big space.”

Igal Elbaz, senior vice president of wireless technology at AT&T, spoke at the same conference and expressed similar confidence in 5G networks unlocking more AR use cases. He pointed toward a recent live, 3D, augmented reality concert experience that AT&T and Ericsson developed as a steppingstone toward more advanced communications technology in the future.

“And if you think about this you fast-forward that notion of that hologram placed in someone’s living room, this is the foundation of a future holographic communication. So, these are the things that really gets you excited with 5G and the capabilities that we were building,” he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.