AT&T Business CEO reflects on 5G’s first year: ‘We sit in a stronger place today’

2021 will see more cell site deployments and the transition to standalone 5G

At CES 2021, Dan Littmann from Deloitte Consulting spoke with AT&T Business’ CEO Anne Chow and Qualcomm’s Senior VP of Corporate Engineering Alejandro Holcman about 5G’s first year, as well as what’s to come as these next-generations networks turn two.

Both Chow and Holcman suggested that their respective companies experienced a strong year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that Chow said AT&T and the 5G ecosystem “actually […] sit[s]in a stronger place today.”

“The importance and power of connectivity and networks was actually amplified,” she said. “As a result, I believe that the groundwork laid by many of the behavioral shifts across industries, across business at large, across our communities have more greatly risen to the forefront the importance of world class networks [and]networking of which 5G is clearly an important evolution to.”

She added that throughout 2020, AT&T “remain[ed]unwaveringly committed” to its 5G plans.  

According to Holcman, Qualcomm also experienced “acceleration across the board” motivated by the need for remote communication and an increase in demand for the latest devices.

“In terms of deliverables for products to the OEMs,” he continued, “we have more than 100 operators worldwide that have commercial deployed 5G.”

He also said that there have been more than 200 million shipments of 5G devices, with “no sign of a slowdown” in sight.

Both were careful to point out that we are still in the early stages of 5G and that there is a lot left to be done before we can really begin to see the true value of the technology.

While Holcman said that 5G coverage will expand in 2021 as more users get their hands on 5G phones and other devices, it will still take time for carriers to deploy all the additional cell sites necessary for full coverage.

“The other piece,” he added, “is that networks today are deployed in 5G NonStandalone, where you still rely on your 4G control. In 2021, you will start seeing a lot more deployment of Standalone 5G networks.”

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