5G: The Fixed [Wireless] Is In!

AUSTIN, TEXAS -- 2016 ATIS 5G Symposium -- Speakers from AT&T and Verizon helped explain why early 5G services in the US are focused on delivering fixed wireless broadband to the home here on Monday.

5G is expected to deliver data over the air tens to hundreds of times faster than current 4G networks. In real-world terms, that means a user could potentially download a high-def movie over a 5G network in seconds -- and presumably blast through your data limit that fast too.

Just don't expect to be wandering round your town or city, pulling down data at supersonic rates on your smartphone or tablet. Both Dave Wolter, assistant VP of radio technology and architecture at AT&T Labs , and Gerry Flynn, director of corporate technology at Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), see fixed as one of the early focuses for 5G. (See AT&T 5G Trials to Start With Fixed 15GHz Tests and Verizon Hits 1-Gig+ in 5G Trials, Eyes Early Applications.)

For all the latest news on 5G, visit the dedicated 5G site here on Light Reading.

Verizon has already said that it will do a fixed wireless pilot sometime in 2017 using 28GHz millimeter wave technology. "If you were to ask what’s our priority for 28GHz, it's fixed to the home," said Verizon's Flynn, adding, "fixed is somewhat easier."

Although, that doesn't mean it's simple to implement. The Verizon tests are to help the carrier determine issues like propagation in the fixed environment and whether it can reliably deliver megabit wireless to the home. This still means relatively short-range, high-speed connections in urban areas initially.

Compounding that is a problem with antenna miniaturization on the network gear, customer premise equipment and -- particularly -- device fronts. Several speakers mentioned that shrinking the antenna sizes is still a technical challenge, which is another reason to tackle fixed first. The larger form factor of antennas that can attach to an outside wall or an indoor modem make fixed more practical.

AT&T's Wolter isn't expecting smaller commercial 5G devices to arrive until 2020. "We understand that there may be some things that may be ready for the Olympics in Korea [2018], but they'll really be one-offs," he said. (See SK Telecom Claims 5G Trial Milestone.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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