September 27, 2016 —
Let’s face it. The internet of things and fixed broadband wireless don’t exactly fit into T-Mobile shocking pink view of the world.
So, when Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s chief technology officer, laid out some of the carrier’s vision for the next generation of wireless, he emphasized the edgy applications during his keynote speech at the Competitive Carrier’s Association annual conference in Seattle.
Ray sniffed at suggestions that 5G will be a substitute for fixed broadband in the last mile and the infrastructure supporting the internet of things. “I don’t want my refrigerator to tell me to buy milk,” he said. “If [fixed broadband and IoT] is what 5G is all about we should pack up our bags and go home.”
Wireless has been driven in the last 10 years by consumer services that excited the imaginations of the younger demographic, and Ray suggested that trend will continue.
“As we look forward, the 5G story has to be about the consumer services that are going to light up this industry and bring costumers to our doors,” he said.
A futuristic video was run that showed use cases such as real time augmented reality navigation, real time language translation, embedded bio tracking, interactive mobile learning, live immersion virtual reality.
“Think about the cornerstones, really high Internet speeds, great data throughput rates, massive capacity, really low latencies, long battery life,” Ray said. “Think about how they can transform people lives. Can we bring virtual reality and augmented reality to life, finally? There are thousands of use cases between fixed broadband and IoT.”
Ray, who has been one of the architects of T-Mobile’s network for the last 21 years, said the last three years have brought about the most change that he has experienced.
“We’ve come from no LTE in 2012 to LTE coverage of 312 million pops across nearly 2 million square miles. A very rapid rollout. In the last 10-15 months we have added a million square miles of LTE coverage. There’s still a long way to go.
Ray applauded the FCC’s 600 MHz incentive auction, saying low-band spectrum is a cornerstone to T-Mobile’s build out.
“The 600 MHz auction that is currently underway is a major and transformative event for the U.S. wireless industry,” he said. “We have secured 700 MHz band A Block. A lot of the geographic expansion that we have secured is the result of having low-band spectrum.
Roaming relationships with rural carriers will be another cornerstone to building out an LTE network coast-to-coast. Ray not only promised to be the “best damn roaming partner they could wish for,” but he also pledged help the rural carriers build and launch their VoLTE networks.
4G Building Blocks Necessary for 5G
Most important for 5G, possibly, is the continued development of 4G LTE, Ray said, including carrier aggregation.
“5G demands massive bandwidths of spectrum,” he said. “As an industry we are just managing to cobble together two or three carriers. Understanding how to aggregating large volumes of spectrum is something we need to learn.”
The wireless industry is just scratching the surface with 4X4 multiple-in multiple-out (MIMO) antenna technology. “For 5G, we are talking deploying 64X64 and much higher. Massive antenna densities. Technologies such as beamforming that are going to be critical for 5G network rollout and network services,” he said.
As well as being prepared for 5G, carriers are going to need to have 4G technology to compete for the next 5 to 10 more years, he said.
“5G is going to come on top as a layer. Probably first in small cells. But the underlying network layer will be LTE and LTE Advanced,” he said. “We will push the envelope very hard to make sure we are ready for 5G.”
T-Mobile has not made a lot of announcements about testing and trialing 5G technology, but Ray assured the audience that the carrier has been busy.
“We have been extremely busy testing mobile links with up to 4 Gbps, fixed links operating at close to 8 Gbps, with terrific latencies and performance,” he said. “We are doing a huge amount of work on the 5G vision.”
On Sept. 20, T-Mobile and Ericsson today announced the completion of a test that achieved 12 Gbps for 5G downloads with less than 2 milliseconds of latency. They also completed a voice call between 4G and 5G networks, using Ericsson’s 5G radio prototype system and T-Mobile’s LTE network and devices.
The 5G trial, which occurred on August 3, also demonstrated two-directional beam steering and operation of multiple simultaneous 4K video streams.