The Race to 5G: Standards
Follow the latest news about 5G standards and the companies that care about them
Follow along as IEEE Spectrum summarizes the most interesting news and developments related to 5G standards through the 5G Tech Tracker.
AT&T Promises Mobile 5G in 2018
4 January 2018AT&T announced it would have 5G ready for mobile phones in a dozen U.S. markets this year. And added that they expect to be the first U.S. carrier to deploy it. AT&T and Verizon have so far played it safe with fixed wireless networks, on which signals travel between two stationary points. Getting signals to follow people around is much harder. AT&T tipped its hat to the standards body 3GPP for issuing the first 5G New Radio specification in December 2017, which manufacturers can now use to develop hardware and devices.
ZTE to Launch 5G Smartphones by 2019
12 January 2018
ZTE aims to begin selling smartphones that support 5G by early 2019, Bloomberg reports. The surprise revelation from the Chinese manufacturer at CES 2018 is striking, since standards-based mobile 5G networks are not expected until 2020. However, AT&T has said that it plans to begin offering 5G mobile service in some U.S. cities later this year. Which leads us to the 5G version of the chicken-egg problem. Which will come first—the smartphone or the service? And where exactly ZTE plans to find chipsets for 5G smartphones remains a mystery, since chip manufacturers have yet to announce any.
AT&T Told to Break Up With Huawei
16 January 2018
Geopolitics are rocking the world of 5G. U.S. lawmakers warned AT&T to end its relationship with Huawei, Reuters reports. That includes industry efforts to establish 5G standards, which the companies have collaborated on since at least 2016. The directive reflects American regulators’ longstanding suspicions that Huawei may use smartphones and network infrastructure to conduct surveillance for the Chinese government. AT&T also recently ditched a plan to sell Huawei’s smartphones to its customers after pushback from regulators.
T-Mobile CTO Chides Verizon for Pre-Standards 5G
17 January 2018
T-Mobile is a feisty company, and it’s not at all unusual for their executives to publicly tease or berate competitors AT&T and Verizon. Even so, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray’s latest blog post is a master class in corporate straight talk. He lambasts AT&T’s “5G Evolution” proposal from 2017, calling it #Fake5G. And he criticizes Verizon’s plans to launch pre-standard 5G over fixed wireless later this year—saying “I can’t believe I have to say this, but yes, industry standards matter.” T-Mobile has promised standards-based, nationwide mobile 5G service by 2020.
Ericsson Ready to Sell 5G Software
8 February 2018
Ericsson is preparing software that wireless providers will be able to run across their networks to support 5G service by the end of 2018. The software is compatible with the recently-released 3GPP 5G New Radio standard and coordinates activity within the Radio Access Network (RAN), the layer that routes information between the core network and personal devices. Other software the company is working on will help boost network throughput and capacity to 5G levels. Put all this together, and a recent Ericsson study found that 5G could deliver data at 10 times lower cost per gigabyte than 4G.
Ericsson and Swisscom Promise Mobile 5G in 2018
22 February 2018
Shortly after Ericsson said it would soon be ready to support 5G with new software and network equipment, Swisscom signed up to be one of the first carriers to roll those products out in Switzerland. The companies said today that Swisscom will have mobile 5G up and running in parts of Switzerland by the end of 2018—long before industry standards are finalized and months before 5G-enabled smartphones are expected to hit the market. Swisscom also said it would test a “5G mast” to support mobile coverage with Ericsson in March in the town of Ittigen, just outside of Bern.
Samsung Hosts Key 5G Standards Meeting
21 May 2018
Today in Busan, South Korea, more than 1,500 experts from smartphone-makers and carriers begin a series of meetings to finalize a key batch of 5G standards. One group led by Samsung will set specifications for commercial base station equipment that will support two popular frequency bands that have become critical to 5G’s global rollout: 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz. Attendees will also complete a standard for 5G radio that does not require an LTE backbone to operate, a follow up on an earlier version for non-standalone 5G radio last December. Once these guidelines are complete, manufacturers can finally begin to build the gear required for standards-based 5G networks.
Nokia Demos ‘3GPP-Compliant’ 5G New Radio
7 June 2018
Nokia and T-Mobile said today that the companies took a key step toward delivering mobile 5G to smartphones by demonstrating the first “3GPP-compliant” 5G New Radio system in the United States. In a test, engineers were able to send and receive data at 28 GHz using Nokia’s base station equipment and a gadget that basically serves as a stand-in for a smartphone (since 5G smartphones don’t exist—yet). Millimeter waves in the 28 GHz range will likely complement T-Mobile’s 600 MHz spectrum in the company’s future nationwide 5G network. A press release didn’t provide information about data rates or latency, but did say that the demo made use of Nokia’s AirScale baseband and radio technology.
SK Telecom Succeeds with Standalone 5G Test
19 June 2018
Hot off the heels of the 3GPP announcing that the standards for standalone 5G New Radio had been locked down, SK Telecom, with assistance from Nokia, successfully demonstrated standalone 5G transmissions. The success came only five days after 3GPP’s announcement, proving that companies are eager to complete this next phase of 5G deployment. Unlike earlier non-standalone transmissions, SK Telecom’s test relied solely on 5G infrastructure to transmit data. The company completed the test at Nokia’s lab in Wroclaw, Poland, and confirmed that standalone 5G could provide service for VR, HD video streaming, and autonomous vehicles.
China’s First Stand-Alone 5G Call
19 June 2018
China Mobile took advantage of Mobile World Congress Shanghai to demonstrate the country’s first stand-alone 5G call. 3GPP finalized the standards for stand-alone 5G—that is, 5G communication not reliant on existing communications networks—earlier this month. Stand-alone 5G demonstrations are still mostly unexplored territory for companies, so what better time than MWC Shanghai, a two-day show for everybody who’s anybody in the telecom industry to gather, to pull off the feat?
Qualcomm Fosters Plans to Further Standards
4 March 2019
You’d be forgiven for thinking that 5G has been finalized, what with networks being deployed around the world. But there’s more to be done (think 4G and the later addition of LTE), and Qualcomm has joined several companies looking to further develop standards for the next generation of wireless. In an announcement, Qualcomm says it has joined with EURECOM, IMT, and France Brevets and will contribute funding and standards expertise to the effort, which will focus on future technologies that can improve 5G and require new standards in the process.
ZTE Sponsors Development of 5G and 6G Standards
23 May 2019
ZTE announced it is sponsoring the 53rd IEEE International Conference on Communications (ICC), in the interest of further developing 5G standards, as well as laying the groundwork for 6G standards. 6G is still very much in the air, but could include technologies like terahertz communications, holoradio, and edge AI. ZTE’s Chief Engineer of Wireless Standards, Yuan Yifei, outlined some of the numbers he thinks 6G should strive for: 1 terabit per second, 100 gigabits per square meter, and below 10 microseconds of latency. Yifei also suggested that smartphones will transition to wearable and ultimately implantable devices.