FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- CCA Annual Convention -- T-Mobile has been furiously focusing on building out its 4G LTE network across the US, but, as it looks to 5G, it sees real estate, backhaul, fiber partnerships and transforming its traditional telecom services to the New IP as the building blocks to get there.
"It's absolutely critical to get legacy services -- voice and text -- and transition them to IP. Without building an organization that can do that and infrastructure that can do that, having a new generation of radio will add cost structure, not rationalize it. Transformation to IP services is crucial," Mark McDiarmid, T-Mobile US Inc. 's vice president of radio network engineering and development, said Wednesday at Fierce Wireless's 5G breakfast ahead of the Competitive Carriers Association annual convention. (See Making History With 5G.)
McDiarmid admitted that while moving to the New IP involves a technology discussion around SDN and NFV, it also requires a change in the operator's mindset and the constitution of the staff. T-Mobile has had to hire differently, organize differently and bring a new mindset of agility and flexibility, the VP said. (See Introducing 'the New IP' .)
Outside of T-Mobile's internal transformation, McDiarmid said the operator is currently working with partners on how to get fiber to where it needs to go to backhaul its network. Without solving that, he said, there is no path to what comes next. McDiarmid said that T-Mobile has negotiated aggressively with its partners, who are motivated to solve those issues. (See FCC Chair Wants to Take 5G Higher.)
"For most operators finding fiber at street level is one thing, getting it to your cell site and ultimately small cell is very challenging," he said. "Partnerships will be key to get fiber where we need it and there will be wireless solutions to connect small cells to macro cells, I believe."
T-Mobile has not been as vocal as its larger competitors about 5G. Verizon Wireless even recently announced it would begin field testing its next-gen network in 2016, although the panelists agreed it would primarily be pre-standard, advanced versions of LTE, or LTE-Evolved as Ericsson's CTO and Head of Strategy Glenn Laxdal dubbed it, that are ready before 2020. (See Verizon & Partners to Field Test 5G in 2016.)
But, in true T-Mobile fashion, McDiarmid wants to give the big two a run for their money on 5G as well and isn't content letting them define the standard for the rest of the industry. He urged the rural carrier attendees to take part in the 5G standards process, as well as for North America to establish regional leadership and figure out what use cases best suit them. (See 5G: Meet the Influencers.)
"The danger in this is the two big guys define what 5G is in America, and we end up with an ecosystem in the US with a dependency on the fact that they're delivering 50% margin to shareholders and getting away with it," he said, issuing a call to action to the CCA's rural operator members to compete against them and have a voice in the process. "Define what 5G means for us," he said.
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading