European operators reject notion that they're trailing U.S., Asian carriers in 5G race

BARCELONA, Spain -- A handful of executives from top European carriers pushed against the perception that they might be late to the 5G party, reiterating their belief in the importance of developing universal global standard the next generation technology during the Mobile World Congress, here.

"What is important is that we have one standard at the end of the day," said Alain Maloberti, SVP of Orange Lab Networks.

Maloberti was speaking on the sidelines of MWC during a press conference for the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance, which said that it is on track to develop a standard for 5G network technology by 2020. The group launched last year with the goal of creating a single standard that operators could use for 5G.

When questioned about reported statements from Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg that U.S. and Asian carriers are taking the lead in the development of 5G, a top executive from Deutsche Telekom pointed out that "it's the opinion of one single person."

Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, chairman of the NGMN Alliance and CTO of Deutsche Telekom, explained that a wide range of carriers are working inside the NGMN to create the standard for 5G.

"For me, it doesn't matter," he added, explaining that the important thing about 5G is that it meet users' needs.

Sandro Dionisi, director of global advisory services for Telecom Italia, added. "We want to do things in the correct way," noting that the wireless industry needs a single 5G standard so that operators can leverage each other's work and be thrifty in their spending on new network technology.

The race to 5G has dominated discussions here at the MWC show. Nokia, Ericsson and others vendors are demonstrating trials of 5G network technology running at speeds as high as 25 Gbps. In addition, a wide range of carriers are pledging to test and implement the technology in the years ahead.

Specifically, Verizon in the U.S. has said it may deploy 5G as early as 2017. Separately, Korean mobile operator KT said it's aiming to launch a live service for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games being hosted in the Korean city of Pyeongchang, and Japan's NTT DoCoMo is gearing up to showcase the technology at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

For more:
- see this NGMN release

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