One of the not so surprising, but nevertheless important, things to come out of MWC 2017 was greater confidence that a wide body of 5G players -- operators, vendors and industry bodies -- remain committed to developing a single, global 5G standard. The risk of fragmentation along regional or technology lines has rescinded. This is very good news.
New Radio (NR) acceleration in 3GPP is one piece of evidence. Although somewhat controversial, there is now broad support for the NR work program in Release 15 that will see compatible non-standalone modes and standalone modes specified. Light Reading's Iain Morris has written extensively on this here: 3GPP Approves Plans to Fast Track 5G NR.
Another important signal came from the Global 5G Test Summit hosted at MWC. Statements from leading figures in the global operator community, in a press release issued after the event, underline the industry's determination to collaborate on both common standards and on pre-commercial test programs. Here are four examples:
- "A unified standard is vital to the realization of 5G E2E ecosystem," said Seizo Onoe, CTO and EVP at NTT DOCOMO.
- "We're collaborating closely with leaders across our industry on 5G. Pre-standard, fragmented 5G specifications can distract from the end-goal and cause future roadblocks. It's critical that we're all unified and aligned on this technology," said Tom Keathley, SVP of wireless network architecture and design at AT&T.
- "To achieve the large-scale commercialization of 5G in 2020, China Mobile will strengthen cooperation with global industry partners to facilitate a unified and high-quality 3GPP 5G specification," said Mr. Liu Aili, EVP of China Mobile.
- "The alignment of the industry behind a common global standard is important for the evolution of 5G and the cost-efficient roll-out of the technology globally. We look forward to working across the industry to establish a thriving 5G ecosystem," said Matt Beal, director of technology, architecture and strategy at Vodafone.
Collaboration on testing and trials is vital to develop the 5G technology ecosystem, and to enable the industry to present a common platform to the vertical industries around the world that will consume 5G services. As the industry learned in 4G, collaboration ahead of standards freeze can greatly accelerate interoperability and commercial service launch. There's an opportunity to repeat this approach, and improve on it, in 5G.
– Gabriel Brown, Principal Analyst, Heavy Reading
This blog is sponsored by Huawei.