Accelerating 5G: The Pivotal Role of 2017

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

On the proverbial “Road to 5G,” you might think that 2017 is just another year, taking us just a little closer to the commercial 5G networks and services we’ve all heard will arrive in 2020.  You would be wrong, on multiple fronts.

First off, the analogy itself is somewhat flawed.  5G is not a finish line being raced towards; just like 4G LTE, the technology will evolve long after initial services debut, with most operators launching services at their own pace.  Perhaps more importantly, the earliest commercial service and network launches won’t be coming in 2020.  They’ll arrive sooner.  An extreme eagerness to get 5G up and running across the world means that we will see large-scale 5G NR (the global 5G standard) based services starting in 2019 along with pre-5G NR efforts starting as soon as the end of this year. One year sooner than originally expected may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re talking about the development of new technologies and new ecosystems, it’s massive.

We won’t get to commercial 5G in 2019, however, without a lot of work in 2017.  The standards, ecosystems and use cases supporting 5G will need to advance significantly this year if we hope to see 5G in 2020, much less a few years before that.  An examination of the market tells us that’s exactly what’s happening this year.  Wireless technology, spectrum and ecosystem innovations are taking shape this year, along with standards development that will set the stage for 5G commercialization in a meaningful way over the next few years.  Four, in particular, are coming to a head.

  • 5G NR (New Radio) Standards Acceleration
  • Gigabit LTE Momentum
  • CBRS and Spectrum Sharing Regimes
  • Digital Industries Adoption of Wireless Technologies

They are also related.  5G NR delivers a new air interface allowing 5G to support a diverse set of use cases, deployment scenarios, and spectrum bands, not to mention spectral efficiency enhancements. Gigabit LTE, in turn, ensures that today’s 4G networks provide the network capacity to support 5G use cases in the near-term, and ensure a consistent user experience as 5G networks get built.  Combined with new spectrum licensing regimes opening prioritized access to a broad set of constituencies and technology innovations optimized for specific use cases (think autonomous driving cellular vehicle-to-X technologies) and the stage is set for driving wireless deeper into vertical markets – a prime expectation for 5G.

While every year sees 5G advance incrementally, this all makes 2017 particularly important – the year in which forward movement on a handful of critical technologies helps 5G to accelerate in earnest. Over the next few months, then, we’ll take a closer look at those innovations and trends to understand how they’re being driven forward this year (via standards bodies, industry organizations, vendors and service providers), and how the 5G ecosystem is developing around them.  Most importantly, we’ll examine what comes next; how we expect to see them evolve through the rest of the year and what needs to happen in order to fully exploit the opportunity they offer.

We hope you’ll tune in, join us and send along your input.

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