2018 will be a year of crucial 5G firsts, as the new wireless technology moves towards widespread commercialization over the next few years.
First Fixed wireless commercial launches Verizon Wireless is now expecting to have between three and five fixed wireless markets -- using its home-brewed 5G standard -- live in the US in the second half of 2018. These will deliver download speeds of around a gigabit to the selected urban and subuurban markets. (See Verizon Says 'Up to 5' Fixed 5G Markets Will Go Live in 2H18.)
More standards! The just-ratified 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 5G New Radio (NR) is just the beginning of the standards work on 5G. While NR is aimed at developing a global radio framework for broadband services, the real fun arguably starts with the Phase II standards, which will define elements like IoT support for 5G and high-speed handoffs between base stations. These are expected to be ratified in the third quarter of 2018. (See 3GPP to Unveil First 5G Spec.)
The amazing shrinking 5G antenna Further minaturization of 5G antennas will be one of the key design milestones for 5G in 2018. After all, nobody wants to walk around with a brick of a device or see ugly antenna arrays festooned everywhere. THe key company to watch in this space will likely be Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), which has been touting its minaturization work with 5G since the summer of 2016. We'll likely see fruits of this at the Winter Olympics in South Korea this February. (See Samsung Gets Ready to Shrink 5G Antennas & Chipsets.)
Going for the gold In fact, the PyeongChang Winter Olympics -- held between February 9 and February 25 -- will arguably be the first real coming-out party for 5G. Korean operator KT Corp. , working with Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), will be deploying a trial 5G network around the site to show off video experiences, VR and more, with the new mobile technology. (See 5G Volume Knob Cranked to 11.)
Spectrum auctions Despite some very early launches in 2018, the year will mostly be one of testing and trials for the new technology. In fact, widespread launches in the high-band millimeter wave frequencies -- 28GHz and 39GHz -- still mostly hang in the balance in the US unless the long-talked about 5G spectrum auctions go on the docket. In fact, only Verizon has the 28GHz spectrum available to plot any kind of widescale 5G launches. So AT&T has devised a plan to ask the FCC to consider auctioning off 200MHz blocks of 39GHz spectrum for 5G use as soon as possible. That, and other spectrum auction plans, in 2018 might be the most crucial milestone of all to watch for 5G, since spectrum is the vital lifeblood of the entire exercise. (See FCC Wants to Open More High-Band Spectrum for 5G.)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading