April 28, 2016 — Both Verizon and AT&T are talking 5G this month. Verizon says the have “ambitious plans” to commercialize 5G. in fact, they want to be the first company to roll out 5G. Interestingly, Verizon sees the first case for 5G to be the replacement of fixed wireless.
That is rather interesting. According to Verizon CFO Fran Shammo, 5G is not a replacement technology.
“This is not a capital intense overlay of the 4G network,” he said during the latest earnings call. “It is really all about high-speed video delivery over a wireless network in a very efficient way.” I guess they plan to do that with fixed wireless from what I am able to assess.
That is even more interesting. Granted video, and the rest of the multimedia streaming platforms will be a large part of the data tsunami that 5G is supposed to handle, but claiming that 5G is simply video is, IMHO, a bit of tunnel vision.
I am not sure why that is so important to Verizon. Sure, it is a potential market but fixed wireless isn’t something new and certainly not a major component of 5G. Most of 5G will be densification and that will require implementation of next-generation technologies like SDN and NFV, and multiple HetNet components, and a lot of small cells. Does Verizon see replacing wireline broadband with fixed wireless as a primary focus for 5G, or is this just their test bed scenario? Let’s hope it is just to test the technology waters.
I know the big four are looking at video as the next great opportunity for carriers, but I’m pretty sure that 5G is not just about high-speed video delivery.
AT&T, is on the fixed wireless bandwagon as well, but they explain it as the platform to find out how mm wave technology works, and their test bed is fixed wireless. But they don’t make any brash statements about 5G as Verizon does.
A 5G Marketing Ploy?
There is some concern in the 5G ecosystem that leap-frogging to become the first player with “5G” technology will blur the real vision of 5G. For example, South Korean operators intend to launch some form of 5G technology for the Winter Olympics in February 2018. However, first official release of a 5G standard isn’t expected until mid-2018.
That leads to speculation that just adding a few new features to 4G, in the next year or two, as part of 3GPP Release 13 and 14, will cause some “creative” marketing executives to prematurely dub such progress as 5G.
Contrary to Verizon’s seeing video as the primary driver for 5G, some see gaming as the next killer market, according to Newzoo BV. The researchers say that mobile games will generate almost $37 billion in revenue this year, even though most of them are free downloads. That works because the game developers make money through advertising and through selling in-game goods and add-ons that that enable players to do more inside the game.
In the long run, I believe that mobile gaming will far outpace video in the 5G landscape. The big question here will be latency. Video can be buffered, games are real time and they are not very forgiving if the network bogs down. Here too, small cells, SDN, and NFV will play a key role in the 5G network model.