Mobile Operators, Vendors on 5G Standardization: Let's Speed This Along

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Sunday, March 05, 2017 with No comments

One thing is clear from the news out of Mobile World Congress this past week: mobile operators and vendors see more opportunities than risks with getting 5G off the ground as soon as possible, and are doing their best to significantly speed up the development of 5G standards. 
A group of 22 major operators and vendors recently issued a statement dismissing the 3GPP's 5G standarization process as inadequate, all but demanding that the 5G New Radio specification be ready by 2019 instead of 2020 or later, TelecomTV reported.

"The first 3GPP 5G NR specification will be part of 3GPP’s Release 15 and should cover both sub-6GHz and mmWave spectrum bands," TelecomTV explained in its report. "Based on the current 3GPP timeline, the earliest 5G NR deployments based on standard-compliant 5G NR infrastructure and devices will likely not be possible until 2020."

The "G22," as TelecomTV dubbed these influencers, want an intermediate milestone for the standard so they can get going with large-scale trials and commercial roll-outs sooner than the start of the next decade. 

Not everyone is gung-ho about the idea of speeding up 5G standardization, though. At Mobile World Congress, Light Reading interviewed Telefonica CTO Enrique Blanco, who warned that locking down the NR specifications early would prevent the technology from evolving to meet as-yet-unforeseen 5G use cases, and that those pushing for early 5G NR are stuck thinking of next-gen mobile using a 4G mindset, and may come to regret their rush. 

Rather than being about new devices and antennas, Blanco predicted in the Light Reading report, 5G can only be successful if the whole architecture is focused on, including the issue of network slicing.

Speeding up 5G is easier said than done, noted SlashGear. For one thing, "networks aren’t much use if there aren’t devices to use on them. With commercial 5G still some way out, actually seeing it in action – even in this pre-finalized state – is tricky. Commercial products using it aren’t expected until the first half of 2018."

Further, SlashGear pointed out in its report, "Even with carrier support and compatible devices, 5G will be patchy at best to begin with." 

In any case, the fact that a 5G standard is a few years off at least isn't stopping operators from moving ahead with pre-standard 5G service trials, which are now moving out of the lab and into selected markets, SDxCentral noted. For example, Verizon plans to roll out early 5G fixed services in 11 markets by end of 2018. 

"Korea Telecom is also aggressively moving forward with 5G," SDxCentral said. "The operator has said it will deploy a pre-standard 5G trial network by September 2017 so it can provide service for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang."
Other examples of vendors and operators pushing ahead with 5G plans even in the absence of a final radio standard include:

  • AT&T used Mobile World Congress to promote its Network 3.0 Indigo platform, which uses software-defined networking (SDN) as part of the operator's transition to 5G, Light Reading reported.
  • Nokia plans to launch its "5G First," end-to-end platform that covers all aspects of the 5G network, including the core, SDN, and the cloud, SDxCentral reported. The platform is being touted as a 'global nervous system' for operators.
  • Samsung's 2017 lineup of 5G mobile network products and solutions includes devices for fixed wireless connectivity, a '5G Access Unit' base station, and infrastructure for the next-gen core network, the company announced during Mobile World Congress.  
  • ZTE is releasing a full range of 5G millimeter wave and sub-6GHz pre-commercial base stations, Radio-Electronics.com reported. At Mobile World Congress, the vendor carried out a joint demo of the technology with China Mobile.
  • Qualcomm has updated its X50 5G modem portfolio, adding support for sub-6GHz spectrum bands, RCR Wireless reported.

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