Verizon and AT&T at center of 3GPP 5G standards fight

RCR Wireless
by: Dan Meyer
October 26, 2016

Recent 3GPP meeting showed continued progress toward 5G standards, though a potential rift between Verizon and AT&T in terms of timing

With “4G” networks using LTE-Advanced enhancements rolling out rapidly across parts of the developed world, the mobile telecom market has turned its gaze toward “5G” technology. While most deployment forecasts of networks using standardized 5G technology are currently focused post-2020, industry carriers and vendors are looking to lock up at least a start on those standards within the next 12 to 18 months.

On this week’s Carrier Wrap we speak with Michael Thelander, founder and president of Signals Research Group, to get an update from the latest 3rd Generation Partnership Project meeting looking at 5G standards, which included a standoff between Verizon Communications and AT&T over the timing on the release of standards.

According to Thelander an AT&T-led group wanting to get some form of 5G standards on the books by the end of 2017, which is well ahead of 3GPP’s initial timeline of mid-2018, incited the disagreement. The move was explained by the carrier as it needing more time for testing some of the standards to be ready for mid-2018.

Verizon Communications, which itself is seen by some as aggressively pushing its own 5G agenda tied to plans for network trials beginning in 2017, produced a counter-proposal stating it would like to keep the schedule as is.

Thelander reasoned Verizon Communications was perhaps looking to stall AT&T’s advancement in terms of 5G work in favor of its own plans for fixed broadband service trials that have already garnered a number of industry partners, while AT&T on the other hand was making Verizon look overly aggressive.

“Verizon Wireless wants to show early leadership, so they can’t accelerate their deployments any faster, but what you can do is essentially delay or prolong the ability of others to deploy something,” Thelander explained. “Although Verizon’s public statement of why they want to not accelerate things is somewhat valid, I think the real reason is different.”

Somewhat connected with the timing issue surrounding 5G standards, Thelander noted plans for the initial Release 15 specification, which was to be 5G focused, is now looking to be lighter on what’s expected from 5G and instead a greater reliance would be pushed off until Release 16. The move would seem to place a greater emphasis on the current LTE-based Release 13 and upcoming Release 14 specifications to provide a more solid base for what’s expected from 5G.

SRG has more details on the latest 5G standardization process in a new report “5G Standardization Update: When the marketing tail wags the technology update.”