5G: What's hype and what's real?

Sue Marek

As I prepare for my annual trip to Barcelona, Spain, for the Mobile World Congress conference (where I expect to mingle with nearly 100,000 of my industry cohorts), I've seen a noticeable uptake in announcements about 5G -- 5G collaborations, 5G trials and even 5G-ready products.

But like many of you, I wonder what all these announcements really mean, particularly since we are still at least a few years away from a definitive 5G standard. 

The most recent news on the topic comes from AT&T (NYSE: T), which announced Feb. 12 that it is collaborating with Ericsson and Intel to test 5G in the operator's Austin, Texas, network labs. The trials are expected to start in the labs in the second quarter and will progress to outdoor tests this summer. AT&T also said that it expects to conduct field trials of 5G before year-end, with those trials focusing on providing wireless connectivity to fixed locations.

AT&T provided a few more specifics about its tests than its competitor Verizon (NYSE: VZ), which announced last September that it is working with partners Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung to test 5G in the company's innovation centers in Waltham, Mass., and San Francisco. Verizon's technology field trials are expected to begin this year.

AT&T, not surprisingly, is trying to play up its software-defined networking strategy as being a key to 5G trials and eventual deployment, noting that its software-centric network architecture will help it get the benefits of 5G's promise of faster network speeds and lower latency.

If you, like me, are looking for answers to your questions about 5G and what it means for the industry, your company and the consumer, then you should come to my 5G luncheon panel at Mobile World Congress. I'll have top executives from both AT&T and Verizon on hand to provide some of the latest details on 5G trials, collaborations and standards. The luncheon event takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at the Fira Congress Hotel (located just a short walk from the Fira Gran Via). The event, "The Path to 5G: What Operators Need to do to Prepare for the Network of the Future" begins at 12:30 p.m. and ends at 2 p.m. My panelists include:

·        Tom Keathley, SVP, wireless network architecture and design at AT&T;

·        Ignacio Berberana, senior technology expert in 5G with Telefónica Group;

·        Adam Koeppe, VP of network technology and planning at Verizon;

·        Chris Pearson, president, 4G Americas; and

·        John Smee, senior director of engineering at Qualcomm Research

I'll allow plenty of time for you to ask the panelists your 5G-related questions. To register, click here. See you in Barcelona. --Sue