AT&T reiterates call for initial 5G standards by December 2017

AT&T's Brian Daly

DALLAS—A top AT&T executive said there continues to be “strong interest” in releasing an initial set of 5G standards by December of next year. Those comments are noteworthy considering AT&T and its supporters lost a vote on the issue during a recent 3GPP meeting.

AT&T’s Brian Daly, director of the carrier’s core, government and regulatory standards, explained that the operator believes finalizing initial parts of the 5G standard earlier—in December 2017 instead of June 2018—would help speed up the 5G rollout process: “We want to make sure the results of our trials get into the standards.”

Daly said that “there was a recognition of strong interest” in moving up the release of the standard during the 3GPP’s RAN #73 plenary meeting in New Orleans in September.

Indeed, during a panel discussion here at the 5G North America trade show, other carrier executives voiced support for such a move. Javan Erfanian, a top 5G executive with Bell Canada, said that it would be a “good thing” to speed up the release of the standard because it would allow the industry’s silicon vendors to move more quickly by having a standard to design their chips to earlier than June 2018.

However, Daly and Erfanian were joined onstage by Alexander Khalin, director of corporate strategy and development with Verizon Wireless, who remained silent on the topic, which was noteworthy because Verizon has stated its opposition to speeding up the release of the 3GPP’s initial 5G standards.

RELATED: Verizon rejects AT&T-led effort to speed up release of parts of 5G standard

During the 3GPP’s September meeting, a Verizon-led group of companies rejected a proposal by AT&T and other companies to finalize parts of the 5G standard earlier than initially scheduled. AT&T and its supporters proposed that select parts of the 3GPP’s Release 15 standard, including the “non-standalone” version of 5G, be completed in December 2017.

The 3GPP’s 5G standard is currently being developed in two flavors: SA and NSA. The NSA option would essentially lean on an existing LTE network, using it as a control plane anchor. The SA version would require the 5G NR (new radio) to assume full control plane capability.

“Verizon, along with several other companies, countered the proposal to complete SA [stand-alone] and NSA [non stand-alone] options simultaneously—noting that in order to effectively define a non-standalone option which can then migrate to a standalone, a complete study standalone would be required to derisk the migration,” Verizon said in a statement to FierceWireless last month. “It is also noteworthy that the agreement reached by 3GPP in June was important to ensure that both non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA) be completed in a timeline that would avoid two phases of Release 14.”

Nonetheless, Daly said AT&T continues to move forward with its 5G tests. He said the carrier has already conducted lab trials with vendors Ericsson, Intel and Nokia on fixed and mobile operations between 15 GHz and 28 GHz, and he said tests with Ericsson specifically produced speeds up to 14 Gbps.

He added that AT&T is planning to conduct prestandard millimeter-wave technology pilots between this year and next year, and around 2019 he said the carrier expects to conduct initial market trials and early market deployments of 5G services.