LAS VEGAS—As Verizon moves forward with its plans to do early field trials of nascent 5G wireless technology in the United States starting in 2016, it has assembled a pool of partners to help turn ideas for the next generation of wireless performance into reality.
One of those partners, Samsung, is here this week at the CTIA Super Mobility 2015 conference, where eWEEK had a chance to talk with Samsung executives about how the company will work to move Verizon’s trials forward.
“We’re going to be a part of this both from a network and a device perspective,” Rick Svensson, networks division sales and marketing vice president at Samsung Electronics America, told eWEEK. “We see this as a collaborative effort.”
The Verizon 5G field trials initiative, which was reported by eWEEK earlier this week, comes even as most consumers and businesses are still embracing 4G LTE. Verizon is starting the trials with a range of partners—including networking technology vendors Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems, Ericsson and Nokia Networks and chip makers Qualcomm and Samsung—to test 5G concepts and make recommendations for standards that will be created later to implement the new, faster technology. 5G is expected to offer as much as 50 times the throughput of current 4G LTE and latency that will drop into the single milliseconds. It’s also expected to play a significant role in the rapidly growing Internet of things (IoT), as the number of connected devices creating traffic over the world’s wireless networks continues to grow.
Verizon’s 5G trials will be a learning experience for the partners, said Svensson, and will help the carrier determine the best ways to roll out a 5G network in the U.S. “They are going to try and see what works for them. Verizon was a leader in 4G LTE and wants to be a leader in 5G. It’s very clear from their announcement.”
From Samsung’s viewpoint, the 5G field trials will be a place where the company can test out its own devices and technologies to ensure that they are compatible and perform well for users, said Svensson. “Our device brethren are very smart about what they do and they will incorporate 5G when it is ready, I am sure. We’re deeply involved with the standards as are most of our key customers for several years now.”
One thing that 5G networks will bring is improved interoperability for devices and carriers, said Svensson. Existing CDMA and GSM networks and 2G and 3G standards mean that today there is no real plug and play between vendors, which is what mobile carriers want to have in the future to make operations more efficient and streamlined, he said.
“I’m willing to bet that by the time 5G rolls out it will be plug and play,” said Svensson. “It’s what the operators want. And to that we say, ‘Bring it on.'”
Chris Pearson, president of the 4G Americas wireless industry association, told eWEEK that the 5G field trials are a good step to prepare for the 5G protocols and standards to come by 2020, when 5G services are expected to begin.
“We think that cooperating and working to get on a pre-standard level is right today,” said Pearson. “Any company that wants to talk about 5G today and is doing tests and trials is fine. Today we don’t know exactly what 5G will be because the standards process …has barely started.”
Verizon is not a member of the 4G Americas organization, though its major U.S. competitors –T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint—are members. In the past when 4G standards were being developed, many companies collaborated and did similar test bed projects, said Pearson. That work was done later in the process, compared with Verizon’s planned early trials in 2016, he said.
“When that was happening [with 4G] it was after the standards process had started and was a little farther down the road, so people had more of an idea of what was coming out,” he said. “As far as the time to discuss 5G collaboration and cooperation, the time is now.”
As Verizon Eyes 5G Trials, Samsung Gets in Early to Lend Expertise
Several analysts who talked with eWEEK about Verizon’s planned 5G trials said that it’s certainly not the first time that mobile carriers and vendors wanted to get an early start on standards creation so they could encourage ideas that would be helpful to them.
“What they’re doing is not necessarily unique,” said Daryl Schoolar, an analyst with Ovum. Mobile carriers do experiments with components, frequency bands, air interfaces and more all the time, he said, so they can work on innovations and improvements for their networks. “I think that ultimately Verizon is testing out the technology to see what works best for them and to have influence in the standards community.”
William Ho, an analyst with 556 Ventures, agreed. Verizon has been doing experiments with 5G for a while in its labs and is now preparing to take them out into the world in field trials, he said. “I think the ultimate aim is to not wait until 2020,” said Ho. “Also, the benefit of something like this is getting some level of customization by offering their guidance” to the standards bodies. “It’s standard operating procedure.”
Roger Entner, principal analyst of Recon Analytics, said that Verizon isn’t actually the first mobile carrier to conduct 5G testing. AT&T did the first such tests starting about two years ago but never made a formal announcement about its efforts, said Entner.
“I don’t think that AT&T expected that Verizon would have made a splash with this or they would have made their own press release on it,” he said. “What is the key here is that the two largest American carriers are at the very forefront of innovation, along with half a dozen foreign carriers doing something in this space. While we are writing about it, they are doing something with it, even on a very small scale.”
That head start can be important, said Entner.
“The rewards you can get from being at the forefront of technical innovation is one thing Verizon demonstrated with LTE,” he said. “They were the first carrier to do 4G, and it basically allowed them to have a two-year lead over every other competitor.”