T-Mobile exec: North America needs to lead in 5G

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- North America needs to be on the forefront of 5G standards development if it wants the next generation of wireless network technology to cater to the needs of consumers here in the U.S., said a top T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) executive.

Speaking at the FierceWireless executive breakfast on "The 5G Vision: Preparing for the Next Stage in Wireless Networks," held in conjunction with the 2015 Competitive Carriers Association's show, T-Mobile's Vice President of Radio Network Engineering Mark McDiarmid warned that without regional leadership in 5G, operators in Southeast Asia will likely take the lead and the focus of 5G will be about speed rather than on specific uses. McDiarmid added that 5G leadership also will drive much of the research and development efforts so it's critical that the U.S. is part of the 5G discussion.

Glenn Laxdal, CTO and head of strategy for Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) North America, added that until recently much of the 5G discussions were driven by the Japanese operators because they saw a need to be aggressive with 5G. "It's important that the North American carrier base is discussing 5G in a more public way," he said.

While McDiarmid called for leadership among North American operators in 5G, he also said he was struggling with some of his competitors' announcements about 5G. McDiarmid was likely referring to Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) announcement last month that it was going to trial 5G technology in 2016. "I'm struggling with some of the competitions' announcements around 5G. What does it mean for the consumer?" he asked.

But he added that he is encouraged to see the Wi-Fi community and groups such as IEEE community become part of the 5G discussion. "Previously Wi-Fi was not part of the standards' discussion," McDiarmid said.

Laxdal agreed, noting that the Wi-Fi and cellular "worlds" are coming together. "Wi-Fi is going to be part of the next-generation radio networks. Wi-Fi and LTE and Wi-Fi and 5G are working together. That's the inevitable outcome."

The 5G vision is appealing to smaller operators because much of the discussion is about making networks easier and more affordable to deploy. However, Ken Borner, vice president of engineering at Atlantic Tele-Network, warned that not all 5G use cases will be the same -- and that rural operators may have very different uses for 5G. However, he noted that none of those use cases will really matter without good network coverage. "We have to have coverage first," Borner said.

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