"We're preparing for the launch of standards-based mobile 5G as soon as late 2018," writes Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO, in a blog. Like many carriers, AT&T had initially been anticipating late 2019 or 2020 for the arrival of true mobile 5G services. (See AT&T Lays Out 5G Plans & More for 2017.)
Now that the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) has accelerated the timetable for the 5G New Radio (NR) specification -- as Light Reading first reported would happen in September 2016 -- schedules for both fixed and mobile 5G have started to speed up too. (See 3GPP Approves Plans to Fast Track 5G NR.)
The accelerated schedule, which will see NR specifications frozen in December 2017, will support a "non-standalone" 5G standard that uses LTE to control the 5G data connections. Fuetsch writes that this will help speed up the development of standards-based mobile 5G too:
- The accelerated schedule includes a plan to complete key components of the 5G standards needed to start chipset development in December 2017. That's 6 months ahead of the expected 3GPP full Release 15. These key components include the specifications for 5G NR along with the non-standalone option for the core network interface. The December 2017 standards milestone will unveil the first complete picture of a holistic 5G system, enabling hardware, chipset, and device manufacturers to start their development earlier. Operators, in turn, will be able to provide standards-based mobile 5G service sooner to customers, with many in the industry aiming for 2019.
The 3GPP Release 15 5G specification is expected to be completed in June 2018, including both standalone and non-standalone options. Release 16 5G, which lays out massive IoT, low-latency use cases and more, will follow in late 2019.
Fuetsch says that ahead of 5G services AT&T is planning "mobile-first" 5G trials in 2017. "In April we will start a second trial in Austin. The trial will allow residential and small-to-midsized business customers to stream DirecTV NOW and access next-gen entertainment and enhanced broadband services," Fuetsch says. (See AT&T Lab Tests DirecTV Now Over 5G.)
"Throughout this year and into next, you'll hear more about our plans for 5G fixed wireless," Fuetsch notes. Verizon, meanwhile, has started fixed 5G customer trials in 11 cities in the US and hopes to offer that service in 2018. (See Verizon Fixed 5G Tests to Top 3Gbit/s?)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading