U.S. needs to put more resources into 5G--and let the world know about it

Monica Alleven, FierceWirelessTechWith the advent of 5G, the United States once again has an opportunity to prove it is the kind of trailblazer that can deliver leading-edge technology.

Yes, LTE-Advanced has a long road map ahead of it and great technical features will continue to be deployed as part of it. A recent 4G Americas white paper reinforces the idea that LTE-A has a lot of runway while recognizing the need to hammer out what 5G needs to achieve, which will surely vary by geographic regions around the world.

The 4G Americas document lays out no less than 15 technology solutions that the association recommends for further study. Among them are massive multiple input/multiple output (MIMO); radio access network (RAN) transmission at centimeter and millimeter waves; new waveforms; shared spectrum access; and advanced inter-node coordination.  Of course, the hot topics of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) are addressed as well.

While experts point out that the migration to 5G is different from past wireless technology migrations and involves a totally different approach, some things remain the same. As with earlier technology upgrades, competition is in high gear, with some of the usual suspects itching to be first. South Korea and Japan, not surprisingly, are pushing hard to meet, and no doubt exceed, their 2020 targets.

The United States has shown its leadership chops in previous technologies. Going back a millennium of about seven whole years--remember when AT&T (then Cingular Wireless) stood out as the first operator to launch high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA)? As Cingular's chief technology officer, Kris Rinne was called on by other carriers for advice. The United States had a real achievement to crow about at a time when those kinds of feats usually went to European GSM or Japanese CDMA operators.

More recently, before it was acquired by T-Mobile US, MetroPCS leapfrogged over 3G and earned bragging rights as the first LTE carrier in the United States in 2010. Not too long thereafter, Verizon Wireless announced it was launching the world's largest LTE network.

A lot of 5G work is happening around the world. South Korea has been making a lot of noise lately, and it pledged to work with its Asian neighbors and the European Union for research on 5G. The Frankfurt, Germany-based Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) alliance presented the latest results of its 5G initiative at a workshop in Beijing in September. The NGMN's recommendations are expected to be released in the April timeframe. Presumably, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will incorporate these and other recommendations into an actual standard.

Here in the Americas, the scene is more subdued, but it's time to let the rest of the world know we're not sitting idle. 4G Americas stepped up to the task of developing its recommendations because it saw a need for a cohesive vision to be presented for the Americas, according to 4G Americas President Chris Pearson. Subject matter experts started working on the project in February. The association plans on sharing the white paper with the FCC and other organizations.

"North America has been a leader in LTE commercial deployments, we're a leader in technology when it comes to applications and services and software," Pearson said. "North America needs to invest more resources, including money, in 5G."

The transition to 5G represents a great opportunity for the U.S. to show it's still got moxie when it comes to technology. Now it's time for other industry players to step up to the plate.--Monica