Partnership with the popular Magnolia lifestyle brand will provide insights into 5G for the enterprise
Two weathered, 210-foot silos preside over the home of Magnolia in Waco, Tex., giving the site its name and a distinctive identity. Now Magnolia Market at the Silos — the brainchild of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines — will offer 5G-backed Wi-Fi to its visitors and to vendors who serve the retail site with food trucks and other offerings.
From 5G equipment on a cell tower about 175 meters away, AT&T is using 28 GHz spectrum to connect a single piece of 5G customer premise equipment at the Silos, which in turn feeds a system of Wi-Fi nodes scattered around the Silos. AT&T designed the entire system, with the exception of utilizing some existing wiring, according to Dave Wolter, AVP of radio technology and strategy for AT&T Labs. The site is AT&T’s largest 5G trial with a home and lifestyle brand, according to the carrier. Waco was one of AT&T’s planned markets for 5G testing, Wolter noted, and the Silos fell within the predicted coverage range of the nearby 5G-enabled site — so AT&T asked if Magnolia was interested.
“We thought that it would be a really good test case to provide 5G to the enterprise: a lot of traffic on the system, a lot of different end users; high-traffic and high throughput; quiet times and heavy times, and a lot of different kinds of applications,” Wolter said.
“At Magnolia, we’re always looking for opportunities to implement innovative solutions,” said David Washburn, information technology manager, Magnolia. “We’re excited to see how this technology enhances efficiencies for vendor partners and employees alike.”
Magnolia Market is a two-and-a-half-acre site that offers shopping, a offers a variety of food trucks, an AstroTurf lawn with games, a garden and a bakery. Approximately 5,000 people visit the site each day. Wolter said that some final testing is still being conducted at the site, and the 5G-based access is done as an overlay of an existing private network. While weather concerns haven’t been an issue at the site due to the short link distance, Wolter said, AT&T has had to take into account window penetration when placing the 5G CPE. The Magnolia site, like other 5G fixed wireless test sites, enables the carrier to prove out how well its models for millimeter-wave network planning actually work.
AT&T is utilizing its FlexWare platform with its commercial product for Wi-Fi deployments: a single box that can be programmed to serve as both a switch and a controller.Wolter also said that the site is served by a fully-virtualized Radio Access Network and core system.
“We’re moving as far toward virtualization as we possibly can, and that includes these trials,” Wolter said.
AT&T has said that it plans to expand the 5G trial in Waco to include other participants, from potential residential customers to other small businesses, churches and large educational institutions.
“It’s important for us to conduct 5G trials like this one and to learn how these technologies function in a real-world environment and help drive outcomes for businesses across all industries. Results from these 5G trials will help speed up standards-based 5G deployment as soon as late 2018,” the carrier said in a statment. “At the same time, trial participants like Magnolia are experiencing an early glimpse into the future and seeing some of the real-life benefits we expect tomorrow’s 5G to offer.”