Verizon continues to push ahead apace with its 5G specification and fixed wireless trials, and now says that it is even an "option" that it could go forward with a next-gen deployment -- using its own work -- ahead of the official 3GPP spec.
"I think it's certainly possible," Adam Koeppe, VP of network technology planning for Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), told Light Reading on Wednesday afternoon.
Verizon has posted its second round of work with its partners on a 5G specification. The first round was around the 5G radio specification; this time the work has been on the mechanics of connecting to the network. The operator has been working on the specification with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and Samsung Corp. via the 5G Technology Forum (V5GTF) it formed late in 2015. (See Verizon Issues First 5G Radio Spec.)
Sanyogita Shamsunder, director of strategy at Verizon, says that the specification is "75% to 80% there" at least for a "fixed wireless use case." Verizon is aiming for a "friendly, pre-commercial launch" of a fixed wireless pilot in 2017, Koeppe notes. (See Verizon Will Pilot 5G Fixed Wireless in 2017.)
The 3GPP, meanwhile, has said that it wants to complete its first 5G specification in June 2018. Koeppe and Shamsunder both stress, however, that the V5GTF will be sharing all its work with the 3GPP and expects to have a big impact on the eventual specification. (See 3GPP Wants to Complete Initial 5G Radio Spec in June 2018.)
"We expect that the vast majority of this ends up in the 3GPP specification, with some software changes down the road," Koeppe said.
Koeppe couldn't give an exact date for when a fixed wireless service could go commercial. "It really depends on a number of factors," Koeppe said. Verizon's CFO, Fran Shammo, has previously said that later 2017 or 2018 could be a realistic date for Verizon's fixed 5G launch. (See Verizon Cleared for Take-Off on Fixed 5G.)
Chipset availability is a key concern. Verizon is working with Intel and Qualcomm on chipsets. Koeppe suggests that, in general, the "ecosystem" is moving "forward at a faster pace."
Verizon now has a number of 5G field trials in action . "The goal was to get out of the lab as fast as possible," Koeppe said.
The operator has been testing on the 28GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) bands. Koeppe says that the 37GHz and 39GHz bands are next in line. Verizon has the option to lease 28GHz and 39GHz licenses in "major markets" through its XO Communications acquisition. (See Verizon Bags XO for $1.8B.)
Verizon is testing network gear from Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung. "All three of them have a roadmap towards" 28GHz, Koeppe notes.
The fixed wireless field tests are testing coverage distance, signal quality, signal penetration and reflection characteristics on surfaces such as glass or metal. The operator is trying all kinds of mounting heights and schemes for the antennas.
"We recently rented an apartment, and we put a transmitter down the road a ways," Koeppe noted. Signals connections at the various sites are being tested "nearby" the test devices, as well as half a kilometer to a kilometer away, the Verizon execs noted.
So why the haste for fixed 5G for Verizon? The operator's CEO Lowell McAdam said recently that he expected a "significant cost saving" from deploying a 5G home router, compared with the cost of delivering ultra-broadband services over a Fios fiber connection.
It appears that Verizon could complete its fixed 5G specification work by the end of this year. "We probably have one more phase to pull it altogether," said Shamsunder. She stated that RF, ASIC and test and measurement and measurement vendors should have enough in the spec now to start developing products.
There will be plenty more work to do on mobile use cases, however, particularly using millimeter wave radios. "mmWave will require a call-back to 4G," Shamsunder noted, meaning that initially the 5G for mobile will require "a tight link to LTE-Advanced." This is not dissimilar in concept to how LTE networks handled -- in fact, still mostly just handle data sessions -- but have to hand off to the 3G network for voice calls. (See Is This the 5G You're Looking For?)
The Verizon execs say that early mobility development tests are going on with its partners now.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading