AT&T To Offer DirecTV Now Via “Game Changer” 5G In Austin Test

AT&T says that in the first half of this year it will give customers in Austin opportunities to stream DirecTV Now on a speedy wireless 5G network — an early trial of a technology that’s “a potential game changer,” chief strategy officer John Donovan told an investor gathering today at the annual CES consumer electronics confab in Las Vegas.

In addition to DirecTV Now, the telco will offer other “next-generation entertainment services” via 5G.

AT&T is eager to promote the technology, which it says could offer download speeds of 1 Gb per second, or faster — potentially making wireless broadband as robust a source for video as cable’s wired broadband services.

That could make the company more attractive to Wall Street. AT&T also hopes to persuade Justice Department antitrust officials that 5G would make it a more effective competitor to cable, perhaps easing any concerns they have about its $85 billion plan to buy Time Warner.

“We’re not waiting until the final standards are set to lay the foundation for our evolution to 5G,” Donovan told the Citi Global Internet, Media and Telecommunications Conference taking place at CES. “We’re executing now.”

Data usage on AT&T’s mobile network “has increased about 250,000% since 2007, and the majority of that traffic is video.” He also sees 5G as a benefit to other products being showcased at CES including the Internet of Things, 4K video, augmented and virtual reality, and driverless cars.

The exec offered little additional information about DirecTV Now, noting that AT&T will provide some consumer metrics when it releases its Q4 earnings.

But he says the company is “very pleased with the way the network has performed” to deliver the video service, and was “not at all surprised by some of the consumption characteristics.”

In 5G trials so far the company has been able to transmit data at 1 Gbps, and in some tests reached 14 Gbps. In addition, it has seen less than 3 milliseconds of latency — the lag between, say, pressing the play button and seeing the video start — which AT&T says “surpasses any current LTE network technology.”

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