- Network equipment vendors have been pushing mobile operators to begin evolving their LTE networks toward 5G for some time.
- Though vendors have their own reasons for this push, operators have several reasons to heed their advice.
- At the same time, operators do need to avoid moving too early toward 5G.
For some time now, vendors of mobile access infrastructure have been urging operators to start evolving their networks toward 5G, well in advance of the technology being concretely defined.
- Huawei was perhaps earliest to this game, creating and promoting the term ‘4.5G’ (later linking the term to ‘LTE-Advanced Pro,’ the name for Release 13 of 3GPP specs).
- ZTE followed with ‘pre5G,’ which encompassed massive MIMO, ultra-dense networks (including small cells) and multi-user shared access technologies.
- Ericsson took a multi-pronged approach, introducing 5G Plug-In software and hardware on separate occasions, but without submitting its own equivalent ‘4.5G/pre5G’ label.
- Nokia proclaimed the new AirScale base station it unveiled in early 2016 to be ‘5G-ready,’ more recently creating the labels ‘4.5G Pro’ (in part to emphasize the need to support the next generation of devices) and ‘4.9G’ (just to cause trouble, I guess).