5G is a revolutionary technology for a couple of reasons. One is simply that it is based on a lot of new technology. Another is that the speeds attained will make wireless more or less the equal of wired connections in many implementations.
Throughput equalization is a key. It makes it financially viable for an early generation of stationary fixed wireless access 5G (5F FWA) platforms to emerge. This allows the wireless ecosystem a rare opportunity to have its cake and eat it too: They can research thornier 5G issues while making money on services that are comparatively easy to attain.
Revenue generation, even for FWA applications, is still ahead. Significant challenges remain. A report from CableLabs and vendor Arris was summarized very well by Mike Dano at FierceWireless. The bottom line is that 5G is very promising, but that a great deal of work remains. That work grows increasingly difficult as higher frequencies are used to carry data. The report, embedded at the end of the story, looks at whether 5G fixed wireless is a viable option for the last 100 meters to subscribers' premises. The answer is "sort of." The report suggests that the future seems bright despite the fact that significant issues must still be addressed. Writes Dano:
Basically, the report concludes that fixed 5G can deliver pretty fast speeds, but that it’s significantly hampered by interference issues, coverage challenges and backhaul and deployment obstacles. It predicts that fixed 5G services might initially be used to deliver services into apartments and other so-called MDUs (multi-dwelling units), and that cable operators might consider using it to reach specific locations more quickly while they build out fiber connections. But Arris and CableLabs definitely don’t present fixed 5G as the panacea that some in the wireless industry have—and they’re not recommending that cable operators immediately switch over to 5G.
That work, if anything, seems to be accelerating. This week, Verizon asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to extend its 5G testing in several localities. The extension, which would last from Dec. 3 to June 3, 2018, is described as a market trial of equipment in 28 GHz band in Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton and Natick, Massachusetts; and Cypress and Houston, Texas.
- Late last month, U.S. Cellular and Ericsson finished up testing in the 28 GHz band in what the press release calls rural and suburban environments in Madison, Wisconsin. Peak throughput speeds of 8.5 Gbps were reached in a variety of conditions. The trials also achieved 4 Gbps speeds for virtual reality (VR) testing. Perhaps more importantly, the low latency needs of VR were successfully supported.
- Ultra-high definition (UHD) television is another application being tested with 5G FWA. Broadband TV News reports that LG U+ and Huawei have completed a pre-commercial live test of UHD Internet protocol television (IPTV) at 5 GHz. The test delivered speeds at fast as 2 Gigabits per second (Gbps).
- The U.S. Cellular/Ericsson and LG U+/Huawei tests essentially were combined in a trial by Arquiva. The UK-based infrastructure and media firm, which has been running the trial with Samsung since July, added "Planet Earth 2" in UHD and a 360-degree VR program with David Attenborough, according to Telecom Paper. The test, which included multi-millimeter (mmWave) and intelligent beam forming technologies, achieved speeds of more than 1 Gbps.
This is just a taste of the ongoing tests and trials. 5G is a broad technology that offers services in well understood lower frequencies as well as truly cutting edge mmWave bands. The testing will move forward and overlap the days when 5G will be generating revenues.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.