It’s been almost a year since Samsung Electronics Americas talked about its plans to conduct 5G trials with Verizon, and now that they’ve validated the technology, they’re confident it will work better than expected.
Not that there should be anything shocking about that. Magnus Ojert, vice president and general manager of the Verizon account in the Networks division at Samsung Electronics Americas, predicted as much when he spoke to FierceWirelessTech last year. But being self-described “old school” telecom, Ojert admits to having been quite skeptical of millimeter wave technology.
“Everything that I saw was just better than we expected,” he told FierceWirelessTech on Friday, a couple days after Samsung announced it had been selected to supply Verizon with its first commercial 5G fixed network solutions in Sacramento, California. In the trials they conducted last year, they were able to get service in a house without line of sight due to the way the signal bounced off trees and obstacles, and they were able to get a good working signal. “Going into it we weren’t sure how it would propagate,” he said.
Given the talk over the years about microwaves and some of the challenges with coverage and topography, “I was very concerned at the beginning. But I was so pleased that the technology worked much better than expected and it provided the greater speeds and it met the low latency,” he said.
“One of the things we saw as we started building sites in Boston, New Jersey, Houston, Washington, D.C.—we got much better at it in terms of building the sites, getting the sites integrated and getting customers onto those sites,” he added. “So that’s probably where I’ve been the most pleased in terms of the 5G. I was a little skeptical at the beginning, but I was wrong. Everything has been going very well.”
In fact, Verizon said it has not seen degradation due to snow and rain, both of which they've experienced in Boston and Houston. Ojert agreed millimeter wave is actually advantageous because it can deflect off a building and get into spots where they didn't expect to get coverage.
While a lot of the credit for the performance has to do with the technology and Samsung has been working at it for almost six years, starting at universities and in Asia, Ojert gives Verizon credit for getting the industry where it is today. “It’s Verizon that really pushed” the 5G spec, which, in his opinion, promoted the 5G standards movement through 3GPP. “Verizon in terms of pushing the ecosystem, in terms of getting 5G out there—without that, I don’t think we’d be where we are today.”
Verizon early on established its 5G Technical Forum with industry stakeholders as a separate thing from the standards bodies; that forum is still active, according to Verizon’s Mike Haberman, vice president, Network Support. Haberman noted that there’s a still ton of work going on in mobility, including by Samsung, so one can expect they’re also both working in that arena beyond the fixed offerings.
Verizon announced late last year that it would be conducting trials with mobility in 2018. It did some initial 5G mobility testing before the Indy 500 last May, when a driver used augmented reality to drive around the track while the windshield was blacked out. The driver used the augmented reality video to “see” where to drive.
When the full 5G NR emerges through the 3GPP and standards process, Haberman said Verizon is going to be in a good position given it’s had a lot of lead time and has focused on getting fiber to its sites (and microwave where there is no fiber.) Theoretically, it should just require a software upgrade to switch its pre-5G standard gear over to the standard. There could be situations where some hardware needs to be changed out, so it’s not a slam dunk, although they’re confident it’s not going to be a huge deal.