In another sign that they’re serious about 5G AT&T has announced plans to acquire Straight Path Communications, according to a recent press release. Straight Path seems to be a holding company that was created to buy licenses for super-high-frequency 5G. They actually did get quite a few licenses between 28 and 39 GHz, although they have been accused in the past of squatting on those licenses with no intention to use them, according to several sources. That’s going to change, no question about that.
AT&T has made it clear that they think the future of telecommunications is 5G and this purchase will give them some of the bandwidth they need to do it. Because higher frequency signals take more power than lower ones, it’s extremely unlikely that these licenses would be intended for cell phone use; it’s much more likely that they are intended for point-to-point transfers between cell towers that will be expected to handle as much traffic as today’s residential fiber nodes. Super-high frequency signals travel very long distances and you can get very large chunks of bandwidth up there. That’s just what AT&T needs.
I have to say that I’m personally very excited about 5G, because it opens up worlds of competition. Right now, most areas are served by at most two or three internet providers. With 5G, cell phone companies can move into areas that they have never penetrated before without costly fiber burial, and that also means an easier approval process from cities and towns. With 5G, cell companies like AT&T could potentially be able to offer the same quality and speed as wired internet service. For someone who doesn’t live in (what is now) AT&T territory but wants to bundle AT&T and DIRECTV with their home internet, this should be an amazing value. It’s going to be several years before it’s all ready for consumers, but it looks like it’s really going to be awesome.