Are Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint building 5G networks?


RCR Wireless

by Dan Meyer
June 1, 2016

On this week’s Carrier Wrap we speak with Signals Research Group to break down the current pace of 5G technology development

With deployment of true “4G” networks still in their infancy, the mobile telecom space has turned its full attention to plans for the next network technology evolution under the guise of the “5G” term. While we are still years away from solidifying exactly what 5G technology will entail, wireless carriers and vendors are working overtime throwing around their ideas of just what 5G will be.

In the domestic carrier space, all four nationwide operators have begun touting their 5G progress, including plans for network trials to begin later this year.

Verizon Wireless said it is currently trialling aspects of 5G at its headquarters, using a van to drive around outside its research facilities to test connectivity. Partners for Verizon Wireless’ 5G push include Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Nokia Networks, Qualcomm and Samsung. This followed up plans announced last year to begin trial work by the end of this year.

AT&T last month said it is on track to begin testing fixed broadband services using spectrum in the 15 GHz band and pre-5G technology this summer, on its way to adding 28 GHz band spectrum to its tests later this year. Those tests are expected to add a mobility component by early 2017.

T-Mobile US also is moving on 5G plans, announcing earlier this year deals with Nokia Networks and Ericsson to begin trialling technology later this year. The partnerships will see both vendors work with T-Mobile US in developing a pre-standards 5G test system for lab and field trials, with actual trials set to begin later this year. Nokia said its work will include the use of “pre-selected spectrum” in the 28 GHz band to trial and test “5G components and accompanying use cases.” Ericsson noted its current work in the space has resulted in equipment prototypes achieving network speeds in excess of 25 gigabits per second.

Sprint is the bigger wildcard, as it has claimed its current network efforts are focused on laying the groundwork for a 5G network, although the carrier is also in the midst of streamlining its spending in a move that could impact its efforts.

On this week’s Carrier Wrap, we speak with Michael Thelander, president and founder of Signals Research Group, who has been closely following the hype surrounding 5G, which he admits has taken on a life of its own. Thelander said this hype has seen the term misused and abused by companies looking to garner a marketing edge, and in fact has caused him to instead refer to the move under the term “new radio.”

Thelandar noted that the industry in general is still wrestling with potential use case scenarios for 5G as well as what performance requirements will be needed to meet those use cases. Once those two hurdles are overcome, he said, standards bodies will then look to testing models to see how the potential technology will work in a real-world environment, and that to this point not a lot of work has been done on these test models.

Once those issues are resolved, Thelander noted that the Third-Generation Partnership Program will then look to evaluate the various proposals being offered in terms of 5G standards. He also warned the industry to not get too caught up in the current “pre-5G” hype, noting it’s impossible to have a “pre” when there is nothing for it to be a preview of.

SRG provides more insight into the current pace of 5G development work in its “Lessons learned from the three little pigs” report.