5G Rollout May Happen Faster Than You Think

SAN FRANCISCO — The rollout of 5G wireless networks needs help in the form of standards, openness and streamlined government regulation, according to top engineers at some of North America's top wireless carriers and equipment providers. Even so, many believe it will happen much sooner than has been predicted.

Precisely what 5G is has yet to be concretely defined by the industry. The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance, an industry association of mobile carriers, has defined requirements for 5G including data rates, transmission speeds, spectral efficiency and latency. However, the industry has yet to come together on standards for 5G networks.

Nevertheless, firms are plunging ahead with 5G trials. Both Verizon and AT&T are currently conducting major 5G trials in several U.S. cities, and a number of trials are also being conducted by wireless operators in Europe and Asia. More extensive trials throughout the globe are planned for next year.

Broad deployment of 5G networks is not expected until the 2020 timeframe, according to Sam Lucero, a senior principal analyst for M2M at IoT at IHS Markit. But despite the lack of standards, a number of speakers at last month's Mobile World Congress (MWC) Americas in San Francisco were more bullish on 5G and expectations for its rollout. 

"We expect 5G to come faster and be broader than originally thought," said Rajeev Suri, president and CEO of Nokia. Suri said Nokia expects 5G networks to be deployed in 2019, with widespread trials next year.

"We expect 5G to come faster and be broader than originally thought," said Rajeev Suri, president and CEO of Nokia. Suri said Nokia expects 5G networks to be deployed in 2019, with widespread trials next year.

Speakers at a panel about 5G — including the chief technology officers of the largest wireless carriers in the U.S. — spoke glowingly about the promise of 5G even as they acknowledged that much remains to be done before the technology is ready to deploy on a large scale.

"4G is like a really good rock band," said Andre Feutsch, CTO at AT&T. "5G is like a finely tuned orchestra." He added that he sees n 5G a tremendous opportunity for advancing and "frankly making the network more relevant."

"From a network perspective, [5G] is an evolution," said Gordon Mansfield, vice president of RAN and device design at AT&T. "However, from a capability perspective it will be a revolution as it unfolds."