The Road to 5G Starts With Home Broadband

This year’s MWC is all about 5G and IoT, with some handset and wearable launches. Wireless carriers and infrastructure vendors are starting to launch limited Gigabit broadband pilots to bring 5G class connectivity to residential users.

While European telecoms have been focusing on deploying Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and Fiber-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) broadband in most cities, in many regions of Asia and North America broadband is not available to residential customers.

Many carriers argue that the cost of laying out fiber to small towns and remote areas is prohibitive, since they can’t recoup the investment from consumer subscriptions.

That’s why infrastructure companies and cellular carriers are starting wireless pilots, using a combination of 4.5G LTE-A and 5G mmWave, to deliver fixed broadband to residential customers in several countries.

Ericsson is launching its 5G New Radio, developed in partnership with Qualcomm, and now being tested by NTT Docomo, Vodafone, and Telstra Australia.

Samsung, for the first time in four years, did not launch its newest Galaxy S series smartphone in Barcelona, pushing back its renowned “unpacked” event to March 29 in New York. The Korean giant, however, announced its new portfolio of 5G mobile network products, including a 5G Home Router, 5G Radio, Next-Generation Core, and Network-wide Management Systems.

Nokia, the Finnish infrastructure company, and one of the leaders developing 5G products, announced its 5G FIRST end-to-end solution, which incorporates AirScale and AirFrame technology, including AirScale massive MIMO Adaptive Antenna, Cloud Packet Core and mobile transport.

Nokia’s CEO Rajeev Suri during press conference

“With 5G FIRST, operators can capitalize on early adopter specifications to bring new 5G capabilities to homes, offices, sports or special event venues and industrial plants,” says the press release.

The 5G trials involve innovative network systems, including the use of 28 GHz millimeter wave spectrum and advanced beam-forming antenna technology. Samsung and Verizon 5G customer trials will begin now in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington, D.C., with a fifth location in Michigan starting later in Q2 2017.

Ed Chan, Senior Vice President, Technology Strategy and Planning at Verizon, said: “Leveraging the Verizon 5GTF partnership specification, Nokia’s 5G FIRST will accelerate the commercialization of 5G services to our customers. We are excited to partner with Nokia to bring 5G to the pre-commercial pilot cities in 2017.”

Most carriers are still working at deploying 4G-LTE across their networks and they believe that LTE will be the mainstream technology until the middle of the next decade. Using standards such as LTE-A can provide up to 1 Gbps by channel aggregation, and deliver home broadband services to places underserved by telecoms today.

T-Mobile USA CTO Neville Ray told the audience during the Ericsson press conference, “we’re excited by 5G, but LTE has enormous capabilities and is transforming the operator industry. We’re finally delivering what is presently being offered over fixed networks.”

T-mobile USA CTO at Ericssson Press Event

Last week, the International Telecommunications Union-Radio (ITU-R) finally delivered the first official 5G specifications, calling for peak data rates of 10 and 20 Gbps (uplink/downlink) and 50 and 100 Mbps user experience performance.

Since 5G smartphones are not expected to be commercially available before 2019, fixed broadband is likely to be the first service rolled out, followed by vehicle communications, especially car-to-infrastructure (V2X), which is critical for the development of autonomous vehicles.

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