The US is on the verge of the birth of commercial 5G services, but there's still so much to figure out and understand about how these services and their supporting technologies will be deployed in commercial environments and how they will be managed.
That's why Heavy Reading Principal Analyst and 5G expert Gabriel Brown, and my good self, are hosting a Deployment Strategies for 5G NR breakfast workshop on September 12 during the Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles -- what better place to talk with industry experts about deployment strategies for next-gen wireless broadband networks?
All of the big four mobile carriers in the US are rolling out some form of standards-based 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 5G New Radio (NR) in 2019, but this is just the beginning of the process.
Even under the current 3GPP Release 15, operators have the choice of standalone or non-standalone 5G. Non-standalone uses LTE for the session management functions of the resulting service, so arguably may help those looking to claim "first to market with 5G" bragging rights. (See Standalone or Non-Standalone? 5G Trials Will Help Orange Decide.)
That's the tip of the iceberg, however, as Release 16 follows at the end of 2019, with Release 17 following at a later date. Release 16 could arguably be more important than Release 15, because it is supposed to add new features, like support for Connected Cars and massive IoT, which will deliver more of the promised features of 5G beyond gigabit-speed downloads. (See 5G Is Official: First 3GPP Specs Approved.)
Such updates, along with the potential to offer services such as augmented and virtual reality, are going to stimulate more deep thought about edge networks: 5G is among the first wireless standards designed with the edge in mind. The early 5G NR specifications already enable much lower latencies compared with 4G -- sub 10ms compared with LTE's 50ms -- but the latency demands of services such autonomous vehicle management (sub 1ms) are likely to require the deployment of compute and storage capabilities much closer to the edge of the network than is seen currently.
As such, operators will also need to be smart about how they use their available spectrum for 5G, their network densification plans, and how they can ensure high-quality network coverage indoors. Most operators eventually seem to be moving towards a multi-frequency 5G network, utilizing high-, mid- and low-band coverage for speed and coverage. In the early years, and (for some) maybe forever, spectrum will be on the bleeding edge of deployment strategies.
Operators, meanwhile, cannot ignore their ongoing LTE-Advanced upgrades as 5G evolves. That's because (and this might be the dirty little secret of 5G) Gigabit LTE will most likely be the signal that users think is actually "5G" as they hook up to the network from devices that enable simultaneous 4G and 5G connectivity.
So, with so much to consider and find out about, come and say "hi" to Gabriel and me at the workshop on September 12 in Los Angeles where we'll be joined by speakers from Boingo Wireless Inc. , Mavenir Systems Inc. , Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) to discuss how to make commercial mobile 5G a reality.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading