Editor's Corner—Industry needs to do more to include other networks in 5G

5G phones (pixabay)
In the race to 5G, the industry needs to make sure other networks like healthcare and transportation are along for the ride.
Monica Alleven editor's corner

SAN FRANCISCO—Understandably, there’s been a lot of talk from U.S. operators at Mobile World Congress Americas about how each of them is leading in the race to 5G.

AT&T is virtualizing its network to the tune of 75% of its services by 2020, and it recently announced the expansion of its fixed wireless trials to Waco, Texas; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and South Bend, Indiana, by the end of the year.

Verizon continues to learn from its 5G testbed in 11 cities, gathering information on millimeter wave characteristics in various geographies and clocking several industry firsts in recent weeks, including achieving more than 1 Gbps speeds on its LTE network with Ericsson and Qualcomm using three-carrier aggregation and combining licensed and unlicensed bands for 953 Mbps in a deployment in Florida with Ericsson and Qualcomm.

T-Mobile boasts its 600 MHz spectrum grab in the latest auction that it will use for 5G, and it’s getting 600 MHz off at record pace. Sprint is positioning its 2.5 GHz spectrum as one of the first sub-6 bands that 3GPP recognized to be a candidate for 5G, and it’s stressing its leadership in Gigabit LTE, as is pretty much everyone.

No doubt we can look forward to hearing about a lot more U.S. firsts leading up to 2018, 2019 and 2020. But during a trade show that in its earlier iteration usually amounted to one big lovefest for the industry, it was enlightening to hear one industry veteran point out what remains to be done.

Hossein Moiin
Hossein Moiin, Nokia technology adviser

Hossein Moiin, currently technology adviser to Nokia and its former CTO, has been involved in the development of 5G since the early days, both in Nokia and in the industry at large.  

He said during a 5G panel on Wednesday that he thinks legacy wireless vendors have undertaken a lot of collaboration with their carrier partners; it’s inherent in the way they work together, but, looking at the broader promise of 5G, there’s something missing.

“I think we’re failing. We are not doing as much as we need to in order to really take advantage of some of the real-time capabilities of 5G,” he said. “We’re not really doing as much to reach out to other industries to help them solve some of the challenges.”

By way of example, he noted the natural disasters that have been occurring the past two weeks in the U.S., where 5G could really help, "but we're not reaching out," to governments and energy companies, he said. Besides communications, there are other networks like healthcare, transportation, energy and production, and when these networks are fused together, that's where the real benefits will emerge for everyone.

Since the beginning of the industry’s journey to 5G, we’ve heard a lot of talk about how 5G is going to bring great transformations all across the board. But I don’t see a lot of work being done to include those industries in the wireless ecosystem right now. Perhaps in the auto industry these efforts are happening and some companies like Ericsson and Nokia may be conducting their own outreach individually to various industries as demonstrated in their booths. But I’m not so sure about healthcare, energy or other areas on a bigger scale where 5G seemingly would make great impacts on society.

Moiin said he expects entities like GSMA to lead in the efforts to bring more industries together to fuse the different elements that he referred to, which makes sense. And surely it takes time to forge these kinds of deeper relationships with other industries or networks where they’re actually taking part in shaping the actual services.

We can all envision the great things that 5G is going to bring with its terrific speeds, network slicing and low latency, but we need to make sure other industries are along for the ride. — Monica | email