The usual cautions are in order for 5G announcements of trials, tests and technical advances: Engineering staffs should look very carefully at whether what is being announced indeed is 5G, or if marketing departments are pushing things in order to make it appear that the carrier for whom they work is keeping up. They also are not mobile, which of course is the most bandied-about promise of the nascent standard.
With those caveats in mind, it is interesting to look at the state of play.
Yesterday, AT&T said that it has launched a 5G trial of business services. The trial, at an Intel office in Austin, also features participation from Ericsson. The post focuses on 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) service at millimeter wavelengths (mmWave). Internet access, virtual private networks, unified communications and 4K video streams are being supported. The post offered no further details on the trial.
Verizon, which is already testing 5G, got good news from the regulatory realm in mid-November when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved its $1.8 billion purchase of XO Communications’ national fiber network. Fortune points out that the deal needs approval from regulators in New York and Pennsylvania, but implies that they are expected.
Verizon is already leasing 5G-capable spectrum from XO. The 26,000-mile fiber network will help the carrier add the many base stations necessary to support shorter-range 5G services. Verizon’s core 5G strategy seems deeply tied to what it gets from XO:
The carrier has said it will likely go national with cable TV and Internet service offered via 5G, which can carry signals at speeds of two to five gigabits per second—20 to 50 times faster that common 4G networks. And current 4G networks don’t have enough bandwidth to support the kind of cable TV and Internet connections consumers want at home.
China Mobile is making progress as well. RCR Wireless week cited press reports that the carrier plans to deploy almost 10,000 5G base stations by 2020. Initially, deployments will be made in four or five Chinese cities. In 2018, the carrier aims to roll out to 20 sites. End-to-end services, using spectrum under 6 GHz, will be the initial focus. Higher frequency testing will follow.
Carrier trials and tests of course are deeply tied to what is going on in vendor labs. It’s not surprising that there is a lot. Earlier this week, CNET reported that LG Electronics has trialed full duplex 80 MHz bandwidth Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) technology that is aimed at 5G. LG worked with Yonsei University, a South Korean school.
Full duplex approaches send data simultaneously in both directions in the same frequency and, therefore, have far greater capacity than other approaches.
News of technical developments, trials and activity on the standards front seems to be increasing. Clearly, it’s still important to understand where the marketing ends and the technology begins. That said, it looks like significant progress is being made.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at email@example.com and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.