TeliaSonera, so often in the vanguard of next-generation mobile developments, has teamed up with Ericsson to develop 5G services that can be tested by customers as soon as 2018.
Industry consensus suggests that the first commercial 5G services will be launched in 2020, by which time there should be some agreed industry standards and specifications. Despite that timeline, there are a number of initiatives that aim to trial and test next-generation applications during the next few years, including those by Verizon, SK Telecom and KT in South Korea, and MegaFon and MTS in Russia. (See Russia's MTS to Trial 5G in 2018, Verizon CEO: US Commercial 5G Starts in 2017, Is This the 5G You're Looking For?, Verizon & Partners to Field Test 5G in 2016 and DoCoMo & EE Share 5G Visions.)
Exactly what the operator plans to do in 2018 is still a bit vague but that's because no-one really knows exactly what type of user experience can be offered as a result of deploying very dense, small cell radio access networks, mobile edge computing (MEC) resources and high-frequency spectrum bands (above 6GHz) that should enable 1Gbit/s+, very low latency (sub one millisecond) connectivity. Then there's the question of 5G-ready component and device availability, of which we can no doubt expect to hear about during the upcoming Mobile World Congress event.
As a result, there are few specifics currently. TeliaSonera and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) say they will develop "use cases and service scenarios" with a view to offering so-called 5G services to customers in two years' time. Those services "could include e-health with real-time surveillance of patients and remote treatment" as well as "connected cars including critical communication between vehicles," including driverless cars. The partners could equally have name-checked virtual reality and augmented reality applications and, of course, those could be part of the services on offer in 2018.
But there also appears to be a focus on how next-generation technologies and applications will affect business processes and industrial operations. "Identifying use cases that can be implemented globally is at the heart of the operation with TeliaSonera," notes Ericsson's head of Northern Europe and Central Asia, Charlotta Sund, who adds that industrial Internet applications will be one of the key focus areas for the partners as they develop services that will be trialed in the Swedish capital of Stockholm and Estonia's capital Tallinn.
Sund says that much of what will be worked on will be an extension and further development of applications and use cases that are already underway using existing 4G LTE capabilities. She adds, however, that the enhanced network performance that will come from the introduction of 5G-related technology will deliver new opportunities.
A focus on industrial Internet applications makes sense: The combination of high-speed, low latency wireless connections with real-time advanced analytics offers great potential in many industry verticals, yet in Europe such developments seem to be concentrated currently in Germany, which has been plowing significant resources into the government-backed Industrie 4.0 initiative. (See T-Systems' Marten Bets on Industrie 4.0 Opportunity.)
That suggests Germany will also likely be a hotbed for similar 5G service developments in the coming years, but according to Ericsson's market research team it will Asia and the US that drive early mass market adoption of 5G. (See Ericsson Predicts 150M 5G Subs in 2021.)
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading