By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq
A slew of telcos around the world announced that they are ready to roll out 5G services in 2019.
In Italy, Vodafone and Telecom Italia will partner on building and operating a joint 5G network that will involve the two companies sharing wireless towers and radio equipment, according to Bloomberg. In addition, the deal will see Vodafone and Telecom Italia granting each other access to the 4.8 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in 5G spectrum the two companies spent in a recent government spectrum auction — which raked in $7.6 billion, more than twice the original projection. Consolidating resources on 5G buildout would mean savings for both companies and position them better in the crowded European carrier market.
According to RCR Wireless, Japanese telco KDDI plans a limited launch of 5G services next year following 5G trials with Ericsson and Samsung Electronics. KDDI and Ericsson say they will test a wide range of use cases in the 4.5 GHz and 28 GHz frequency bands, including interworking with LTE technologies used in 4G networks in Japan.
Australian carrier Optus intends to launch fixed wireless services in the cities of Canberra and Brisbane in January 2019, followed by other major cities in March 2019.
Meanwhile, U.S. wireless carrier Sprint says it is on track to launch 5G services in select cities in the first half of 2019. Sprint currently is laying massive MIMO infrastructure in a split-mode that allows it to serve enhanced LTE and 5G simultaneously. The company's LTE-Advanced network is undergoing upgrades as a "stepping stone to 5G," Sprint Chief Technology Officer John Saw said in an interview with RCR Wireless.
South Korean carrier SK Telecom reportedly also is targeting a March 2019 launch date for commercial 5G services. The company has selected Samsung Electronics, Ericsson, and Nokia to supply it with base stations and other transmission equipment for its 5G network.
Nokia this week announced €2 billion worth of deals with Chinese carriers to help transition their existing networks to 5G by the end of 2019. ZDNet reports that Nokia will provide China Mobile with radio access, core, IP routing and optical transport, passive optical networks, SDN, network management, and professional services. For China Telecom, Nokia will improve the carrier's 4G LTE network across China by supplying its frequency-division duplex (FDD) LTE radio access, core routers, multi-service edge routers, optics home customer premises equipment (CPE) solutions, and services expertise. For China Unicom, Nokia will deploy FDD-LTE radio access equipment across China, along with multi-access edge computing, SDN, IP routing, optical transport, virtualised IMS, and fixed network equipment.
Related, China's Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge, the world's longest sea bridge, is being upgraded to have 5G coverage throughout the length of its 34-mile span, according to CNET.
In Europe, Hungary's 5GC (5G Coalition) is mapping out a strategy for 5G deployment in the country. The first draft will be ready by the end of November, according to the Budapest Business Journal. The coalition counts 65 members from industry, academia and the government, who are helping Hungary to be among the first to adopt 5G and become a major European center of 5G development. Nokia and Ericsson, which both operate R&D centers in Hungary, are collaborating with industry in preparing the next-generation network.
Meanwhile, Germany's 5G buildout continues to face delays — specifically, the proposed terms of a 5G mobile license auction. Germany's federal regulator BNetzA this week admitted it was still working on a final draft of terms, but stated it plans to hold the auction in early 2019, reports Reuters. Opposing industry views and, more recently, mounting national security concerns, likely will result in a delay of said auction beyond the first quarter of 2019.
Related to supporting 5G deployments next year, Intel has moved up by six months the availability of its 5G modem. The XMM 8160 5G multimode modem now is slated to launch in the second half of 2019 to standalone and non-standalone 5G NR deployments, as well 4G LTE, 3G, and 2G in a single chipset. The modem supports millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum, as well as frequencies between 600MHz and 6GHz to support carriers worldwide, according to ZDNet. Intel says the first devices that use the XMM 8160 5G modem will become available in the first half of 2020.
"The Intel XMM 8160 5G modem will enable device manufacturers to design smaller and more power-efficient devices. This can be achieved without the added complexity, power management, and form factor adjustments of two separate modems for 5G and legacy connectivity, as will be introduced in early competing 5G modems," stated Intel.
Apple reportedly will use Intel's modem in its upcoming 5G phone. On the other hand, Samsung will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G modem, and its own Exynos chips for future 5G-capable devices, including a 5G version of its Galaxy S10 smartphone that is scheduled for release next year. The flagship will reportedly launch alongside Samsung's foldable device, the so-called Galaxy F. Teased to audiences recently, the Galaxy F, and also the Galaxy S10 with 5G support, will have a proper introduction to consumers in either at CES in January, or during a separate event planned for March, according to The Inquirer.
While 5G communications tend to hog the limelight, other use cases disrupting other industries are quickly emerging.
In particular, the manufacturing sector stand to benefit from 5G technology by using private or local 5G wireless networks which could be more secure and better controlled by companies operating their factories.
For example, automakers BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen have told the German spectrum manager BNA that they are "interested in operating local 5G networks", Markus Fasse and Stephan Scheuer wrote in a recent Handelsblatt Global article, according to Network World.
The U.K. government wants the country to become a leader in autonomous vehicles by 2021, and has established a number of testbeds. One of these is the Midlands Future Mobility initiative, the UK’s largest connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) testbed. The British provider O2 will use this testbed to launch the biggest fibre-connected small cell network in Europe and trial various autonomous vehicle technologies, reports 5G.co.uk.
Meanwhile, chipmaker Qualcomm reportedly is working on 5G NR technologies for private, industrial IoT networks.
“Replacing wired industrial Ethernet for reconfigurable factories with our ultra-reliable, ultra-low latency 5G NR link” can be accomplished, said Qualcomm. The vendor also says enterprises should take advantage of the industry’s shift to automation a la Industrial IoT, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robots, and so on, which coincides with the development of promised low-latency, highly reliable, hard-wire-replacing 5G. Qualcomm cites innovations like Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) for synchronization of machines, and robotic motion control, which offer millisecond updating, as examples of industrial automation solutions made possible by 5G.
The robotics industry is poised to be a major beneficiary of 5G, according to The Robot Report.
“Higher bandwidth and lower latency enable advances in computer vision, edge computing capabilities, better localization, and other types of technologies that have been restricted by a wired connection or pared down based on their usage,” said Joshua Ness, Senior Manager, 5G Labs, Verizon. “If you can run localized computer vision algorithms so camera- and sensor-enabled robots can better understand what they see and make better decisions, that’s a big benefit to industry.”
Verizon and the Mass Tech Leadership Council (MassTLC), in partnership with Ericsson, have launched a 5G Robotics Challenge in Boston, which will grant teams access to 5G networks at Verizon’s 5G Cambridge and 5G Waltham labs to experiment robotics applications.
Also this week, Verizon announced its 5G First Responder Lab, an innovation incubator for public safety technology that uses 5G.
"First responders should have the absolute best, most effective technologies available to them as they protect our communities and respond to emergencies large and small," said Verizon SVP Toby Redshaw, reports CNET. "Our 5G First Responder Lab will give technology innovators the opportunity to develop applications and use cases that leverage the unique capabilities of 5G, and to bring those solutions to market more quickly."