News Feature | December 1, 2017

The Week In 5G: Verizon Launching 5G Home Broadband In Five U.S. Cities, Ericsson and Nokia Ramping Up 5G Development

By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq

Network Optimization

Verizon plans to launch the first wireless residential 5G broadband services in three to five United States markets in 2018. The commercial launch follows 5G trials in the U.S. in the past year conducted in collaboration with telecom equipment makers, including Ericsson and Nokia, which are accelerating 5G trials globally.

Home broadband customers in Sacramento, Calif., will be the first to experience dramatically higher bandwidth and low latency enabled by Verizon’s new 5G network, starting in the second half of next year, announced the carrier. Details on the initial launch dates for other markets were not available.

Verizon said the launch is based on "confidence in new technology powered by millimeter-wave spectrum," which indicates that it is rolling out a true 5G network, instead of AT&T's "5G Evolution" network, which is based on upgraded 4G LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro networks, according to The Verge.

Verizon is working with Ericsson on its 4G LTE Advanced network, which is considered a "stepping stone" to 5G technology; the duo completed their first deployment of Massive MIMO (Multiple Input – Multiple Output) in October.

However, Verizon, with the help of other partners, is looking to the future by expediting trials and wide-scale commercial deployment of 5G NR mmWave technology in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz mmWave spectrum bands. The company did not specify what frequencies they will use for the commercial launch in Sacramento next year, though.

Verizon expects that the initial launch of 5G services next year will be able to reach up to 30 million U.S. households. Another carrier, U.S. Cellular, also is working with Ericsson on live over-the-air trials at 28GHz in preparation for its own 5G network.

Ericsson is estimating that 25 percent of all subscriptions in North America will be 5G by 2022, representing the highest market penetration in the world. Globally, it says that more than 20 percent of the world's population — at least 1 billion 5G subscriptions — will have access to 5G by the end of 2023, when planned wide-scale deployments will have been completed or are underway.

To support ongoing 5G trials with carriers, Ericsson has established 5G centers in key cities around the world to link with its primary R&D center in Aachen, Germany. Last month, it announced an agreement with Singtel to build a center of excellence (CoE) to facilitate 5G development and deployment in Singapore. Ericsson also plans to open another 5G facility located at Corda Campus, in Belgium, in the first quarter of 2018.

Finnish telecom company Nokia also is investing in dedicated 5G laboratories. The company says it is increasing its staff in its R&D center in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India, in 2018, "to focus on next-generation technologies spanning 5G mobile network architecture, Voice over LTE (Long-Term Evolution or a standard for high-speed wireless communication for mobile devices and data terminals), cloud and big data analytics."

Nokia also has completed a test of 5G technology using the 3.5 GHz spectrum band with compatriot company Elisa, including a virtual reality (VR) use case trial demonstrated this week.

Meanwhile, Russian telecom operators MegaFon and Rostelcom announced plans to create a joint venture to develop and deploy a 5G network in the 3.4-3.6 GHz and 26 GHz frequency bands.

High frequency spectrum trials sponsored by carriers are being supported by governments competing for 5G supremacy.

Recently, the Government of Canada's Communications Research Centre unveiled a real-world 5G test site at Ottawa City Hall to advance Canada's competitive advantage in 5G.

In October, United Kingdom officials earmarked £25 million in grants for 5G testbeds and trials. The allocation is part of a £160m budget for new 5G infrastructure. Some critics, however, contend that the government’s "plans are less focused than in other countries" and that 5G testers in the U.K. are having difficulty getting hold of equipment needed for 5G trials, according to sources of The Register.