Industry puts foot firmly on 5G accelerator pedal

Samsung 5G

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Germany -- Mobile operators and vendors encouraged standards bodies to accelerate the pace of 5G standardisation, to ensure that compatible mobile devices are available from around 2018 to support future mobile applications and use cases.

Pressure is being applied on the 3GPP to complete the non-standalone New Radio (NSA-NR) 5G standard as early as December 2017. NSA-NR is essentially anchored to the LTE network, and is due to be followed by the standalone NR standard for 5G in 2019.

Speaking at this week’s NGMN Industry Conference and Exhibition, here, Giovanni Romano, a Telecom Italia executive who is also vice-chairman of 3GPP-RAN, acknowledged the requirement to have specifications ready in good time.

“It’s a bit like herding cats,” he said, in an indication of the complex nature of the process.

However, he said that 3GPP is on track to deliver the specifications in the right timeframe.

Tom Keathley, SVP of wireless network architecture and design at AT&T, said the U.S. operator fully supported this acceleration, noting that “we need to have chipsets by 2018 to get devices out there.”

Momentum around 5G is certainly increasing. At the NGMN event -- which is taking place in the 10th anniversary year of the industry alliance -- operators and vendors presented their views on the use cases that they believe would require 5G. These ranged from augmented and virtual reality through to autonomous cars, fixed-wireless access for in-building coverage and the tactile Internet.

Arnaud Vamparys, SVP for seamless wireless access at Orange Labs Networks, also introduced the 5G trial and testing initiative (5G TTI) that is designed to encourage collaboration on establishing the technical building blocks for 5G, testing proof of concepts, determining interoperability and ultimately trialling pre-commercial networks.

However, Vamparys was also among those who noted that some operators have more ambitious timetables than others when it comes to 5G deployments. Some concerns were expressed that this could lead to market fragmentation as operators deploy different stages of the specifications.

AT&T’s Keathley acknowledged that “fragmentation is a risk,” but indicated that the industry is also showing a healthy level of collaboration that should also help mitigate this risk.