Verizon undeterred by KT’s claim about being first to commercialize 5G

South Korea market (Pixabay)

KT might be bragging about commercializing the world’s first 5G in 2019, but that doesn’t appear to be taking any wind out of the sails of Verizon, which has led 5G efforts in the U.S. and is involved in 5G technical developments right alongside the Korean operator.

KT declared that it will commercialize the world’s first 5G in 2019, one year earlier than its initial plan, which was 2020, The Korea IT News reported this week.

“I am certain that standards of 5G-SIG (Special Interest Group), which is led by KT, will become the major standards for 3GPP’s (3rd Generation Partnership Project) international standards,” said Director (Vice-President) Oh Seong-mok of KT Network Sector. “After 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, we are going to commercialize 5G in 2019 based on international standards.”

While the message from KT is along the same lines as some of its earlier prognostications, it’s interesting given that Verizon is working with KT, the official sponsor of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, on a harmonized 5G specification. Verizon and KT Corporation last summer signed a Memorandum of Understanding to support their mutual interest in collaborating on future mobile and broadband technologies, including 5G wireless technology, SDN/NFV and GiGA technologies. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam and KT Corporation CEO Chang-Gyu Hwang signed the MOU in a ceremony on June 24 at Verizon’s Basking Ridge, New Jersey headquarters.

Asked about KT’s most recent statement, it didn’t come as a big surprise, according to a Verizon spokesman.

“We are collaborating closely with our peer operators in the Asian markets as we are very much aligned towards implementing 5G technology to time with standards,” he said via email.

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As the spokesman referenced, Verizon is working with other Asian operators, including SK Telecom and NTT DoCoMo, as part of the 5G Open Trial Specification Alliance with the goal of sharing 5G trial information and identifying early 5G use cases.

KT organized its KT 5G-SIG and planned to develop 5G-SIG standards with Samsung Electronics, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and Intel, providing the world’s first trial 5G services at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018, then launch commercial services after the determination of international standards by 3GPP in 2020, Business Korea reported.

According to KT, the early start is likely to cause “no problem at all” because the 5G-SIG standards are highly likely to become international standards.

“The global 5G standards have yet to be determined but we are confident that mobile carriers and equipment manufacturers around the world will make use of our 5G-SIG standards as their test specifications,” KT said, according to the Business Korea article.

However, it’s not entirely clear how the pre-standards work is going to get wrapped into the 3GPP’s final standards given the sheer number of contributors to the effort. Verizon’s 5G specs for fixed wireless are not exactly matching up with the standards being developed by 3GPP, which could pose problems for the carrier and infrastructure suppliers down the line.

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Michael Thelander, president and founder of research firm Signals Research Group, said that based on his research, there’s not an obvious migration path between the Verizon platform and what’s being developed by 3GPP. Specifically, Verizon’s specs denote a sub-carrier spacing of 75 kHz, something Verizon unsuccessfully argued for inclusion in the standards during an August 3GPP RAN1 meeting, according to Thelander. But it’s not included in the 3GPP’s current specs, which call for subcarrier spacing for 5G New Radio (NR) to be 15 kHz, 30 kHz, 60 kHz, 120 kHz, etc., said Thelander, who’s been tracking the standardization process, including the 75 kHz issue, in his firm’s Signals Ahead publication.

Nonetheless, Verizon told FierceWirelessTech last month that there’s still time for closer alignment, with 3GPP still in a study phase until March 2017, and Verizon continues to tweak the specifications based on trial learnings.

“Early commercial equipment will be closely aligned with both standards and software upgradeable as needed,” Sanyogita Shamsunder, director of network infrastructure planning at Verizon, said in a statement.