T-Mobile: New IP, Partnerships Crucial to 5G

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."

For more on wireless network evolutions, visit the dedicated 5G content section here on Light Reading.

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, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

Ariella 10/7/2015 | 1:48:00 PM
5G ""The danger in this is the two big guys define what 5G is in America," Interesting that he says that. Does he really think it's a good idea for each carrier to set up 5G in its own image based on its own view of what 5G is or should be? Wouldn't it be preferable to have one standard to avoid confusion and make clearer why one would choose one carrier over another for that service?
DanJones 10/7/2015 | 2:25:10 PM
Re: 5G Did they say anything about what spectrum they might use? That could get interesting....
Sarah Thomas 10/7/2015 | 4:58:45 PM
Re: 5G Not specifically, outside of expressing his desire for a ubiquitious spectrum band across the globe, but he did say that low-band will play a role and carrier aggregation will be important.
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