AT&T and Comcast Want to Supercharge the Effort to Find a 5G Killer App





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AT&T and Comcast joined a group dedicated to investing in new businesses and applications that take advantage of 5G wireless technology.

The 5G Open Innovation Lab said on Wednesday that the two broadband giants have taken roles as “founding partners” and will help foster the development of 118 startups funded by the organization. 

Fifth generation, or 5G, technology has taken off fast, outpacing its 3G and 4G predecessors. Business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimate 3 billion people could have 5G access by 2026. Despite lacking a killer app, consumers have embraced 5G and want to better understand what it can do. That’s why groups like the 5G Open Innovation Lab are important, since they seek out new ways to take advantage of the technology and bring together companies that normally would be rivals.  

“We are thrilled to welcome AT&T and Comcast as founding partners to help drive our vision to bring industry experts together and, collectively, drive innovation into overlapping ecosystems,” Jim Brisimitzis, founder and general partner of the Lab, said in a statement

Those startups could stand to benefit from the two companies. AT&T was one of the first carriers to launch a 5G network, and has been working on this technology for a long time. 

“Collaboration is the key to innovation,” Jay Cary, VP, Strategic Alliances, Corporate Strategy at AT&T said in a statement. “As we continue forging ahead to realize 5G’s full potential, it is important to work with the nimble startup and innovation community so we can move faster and solve real-world technology challenges more holistically and effectively for our customers. ”

While Comcast doesn’t have a 5G network, the company has increasingly gotten into the wireless business through a reseller agreement with Verizon. It’s also talked about small network build outs that would increase the coverage for customers in its territories. 

“The cycle of innovation often begins in small companies where a new idea can challenge existing ones, and Comcast has had success taking risks and embracing these new ideas,” Tom Nagel, senior vice president of wireless strategy at Comcast, said. “Engaging with the startup community through our own Lift Labs or with organizations like the 5G Open Innovation Lab is an important factor not only in our own efforts but to push the industry forward in exciting new ways.”

Both have been busy on the wireless front. 

On Monday, AT&T said it’s adding thousands of new customers every day to its standalone 5G network along with subscribers to Internet Air. So far, the home broadband system has launched in 16 markets and boasts 40-140 Mbps down and 5-25 Mbps up, costs about $55 a month with no data caps. Internet Air will provide DSL customers with faster internet without having to replace copper lines, which more companies are starting to shut down.

Yesterday, Comcast said in a Securities Exchange Commission filing agreed to sell some, if not all, of its 600MHz spectrum holdings to T-Mobile. The deal is valued between $1.2 and $3.3 billion, depending on how much spectrum T-Mobile acquires. Comcast has also flirted with the idea of building its own mobile network for markets inside its cable footprint. 

In addition to AT&T and Comcast, the Lab’s other founding partners include companies like Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Deloitte, and Nokia.

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