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Network Perspectives from MWC: 5G Everywhere?

by Philip Kendall | Feb 26, 2018

Under the banner “Creating a Better Future”, Mobile World Congress remains a showcase for the best the mobile industry has to offer. Over the next few days our Service Provider Group will examine a number of key themes that have caught our attention in Barcelona.

Right at the top of the list has been significant talk about 5G. With the first 5G NR specifications approved just two months’ ago, the focus at Barcelona is on 3GPP-compliant platforms, interoperability tests and the usual dizzying array of product launches, world’s “firsts”, and world’s “fastests”.

Of note, the 5G themes from the larger infrastructure vendors were more about commercializing 5G through vertical market partnerships and platform innovations, rather than a major fight over network performance.

Ericsson’s Monday morning press and analyst event highlighted its readiness to support operator 5G launches as early as Q4 2018, emphasizing that its radio products have been software upgradeable to 5G NR since 2015. It focused a little more on commercial opportunities, rather than the network technology, through 4G upgrade options and IOT partnership programs. Last week, Ericsson was also referenced as the network partner for Swisscom, which will trial its first 5G mast next month and aims to roll out 5G at selected sites before the end of the year.

Nokia also focused more on 5G opportunities, highlighting a new vertical industry collaboration with China Mobile, and the start of 5G trial with Vodafone in Milan supporting smart healthcare, emergency services, traffic management and tourism. Nokia also highlighted its work on 4G evolutions, achieving 1.3Gbps speeds in a trial of Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technology with T-Mobile USA.

Huawei announced two 5G CPE devices, one sub-6 GHz and one mmWave. Of most interest on the network side, its “Slice Mall” initiative is a service platform for selling network slices, aimed at helping operators commercialize vertical applications.

ZTE unveiled its new-generation 5G base stations, talking up results the equipment achieved during tests in China: peak throughput in a single cell of 19 Gbps in a low-frequency eMBB test scenario.

Qualcomm’s demos included its mmWave 5G modem delivering peak speeds of over 4Gbps (on eight 100MHz channels at 28GHz) and 5G NR interoperability tests in both mmWave and sub-6 GHz bands.  The vendor was also talking up the prominent role expected for its X50 5G modem in operator trials around the globe towards the end of this year.

Vodafone demonstrated a test it announced last week of a first 5G call based on the non-standalone (NSA) standard, a first in the sense that it covers all elements of the call set up, routing and connection rather than “just” a 5G connections.

It is impossible to list all the interoperability tests announced over the last week in a short blog, but these have include tests with KT, Qualcomm, and Samsung, with Verizon, Qualcomm, and Nokia, and with Deutsche Telekom, Intel and Huawei.

MWC2017’s announcement of the acceleration of the 5G standardization process, and the split in the standalone and non-standalone elements of this, has certainly brought forward launch schedules for 3GPP-compliant 5G networks.  2018 may be a little early for any commercial 5G network to source 5G smartphones, but MWC2018 is showing timelines are shortening in many regions around the world.

Stay tuned for further perspectives from the Service Provider Group tomorrow.

Blogs from all our subject matter experts in Barcelona can be found at or via our RSS feed

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