With the race to 5G officially on, two U.S. carriers, AT&T and Sprint, this week proudly announced their first achievements in this new frontier of wireless connectivity. Verizon Wireless is field testing at 28 GHz, but has not reported results, and T-Mobile plans trials in the second half of 2016 in the 28 GHz band, as well.
“Each of these trials is looking at better understanding the new techniques and possibilities of 5G and learning from them,” said Chris Pearson, president, 5G Americas. “All the major nationwide carriers have laid out their plans for 5G testing, each being a little different.”
AT&T reached speeds above 10 gigabits per second in early 5G tests with Ericsson, and it is now working with Nokia to expand its 5G lab trial work into system and software architecture in Middletown, New Jersey, Atlanta and San Ramon, California.
“We’ve seen great results in our 5G lab trials,” said Tom Keathley, senior vice president – wireless network architecture and design, AT&T. “Nokia is joining to help us test millimeter wave, which we expect to play a key role in 5G development and deployment.” The OEM is supplying test equipment for a variety of 5G technology building blocks and features.
In addition to reaching multi-gigabit speeds, the carrier’s initial 5G lab trials also simulate
real-world environment conditions, such as data spikes similar to a concert or football game.
Sprint Gets its Kicks with 5G
The other major announcement this week was Sprint’s demonstration of 5G at the 2016 Copa América Centenario tournament in Santa Clara, California.
The system used 73 GHz millimeter wavelength spectrum to deliver peak download speeds of more than 2 Gbps, which the soccer fans used to stream 4K high-def video and to view live streaming virtual reality from VideoStitch with low-millisecond latency.
Additionally, the system used beam switching, a method of tracking the device, selecting the best antennas, and sending their signals to targeted locations.
Can the 3GPP Standards Process Keep Up?
In the past it has been pretty easy for OEMs to develop their own proprietary technology, creating an alphabet soup past of acronyms. But it appears that the unity found in LTE continues to be the rule.
“All of the carriers are looking to contributed to the standards process what they learn,” Pearson. “As long as we don’t get ahead of ourselves and promise things to customers before the ecosystem is built, the tests and trials are very much a help to the carriers as they provide input to our association and the 3GPP standards process.”
AT&T said it is structuring its 5G trials to contribute to the international 5G standards development so it easily become compliant commercial deployments once standards are set by 3GPP.
“The work coming out of AT&T Labs will pave the way toward future international 5G standards and allow us to deliver these fast 5G speeds and network performance,” Heathley said. “We expect 3GPP will likely complete the first phase of standards-setting process in 2018.”
On the other side of the water, Belgium is getting on board with 5G as the country’s telecom minister has authorized their Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications to find spectrum that could be temporarily allocated to mobile operators and research centers looking to carry out 5G trials. According to reports, the regulator is currently working with Ericsson to analyze the most suitable bands for 5G technology.
“There are a lot of tests and trials being performed around the world, including Europe and the Asia/Pacific region. A lot of governments are working closely with these carriers. But I think the North American region is in fine shape in terms of 5G development and the timing of the technology trials,” Pearson said.