Since 3GPP announced the first set of 5G standards in December 2017, we’ve seen an explosion of high-profile 5G demonstrations – notably Verizon’s showcase of 5G low latency capability at the Super Bowl LII, and following that, 5G’s impressive and varied use case in real-world applications at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.
Since the 3GPP 5G specifications announcement, we’ve also seen a number of announcements at CES 2018 in January and MWC 2018 in February where leading mobile network operators such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon announced firm timetables for commercial 5G rollouts in the United States over the next 18 months.
The 5G wave is rising fast, and as a result of rapid developments in this space, experts are now targeting for 5G products to debut in the market in 2019, a year ahead of the prediction at MWC 2017.
How 5G Ready Are We?
Despite the impressive developments and demonstrations to date from carriers and mobile device manufacturers, there are still gaps as the 5G standards process isn’t complete. While the first set of 5G standards included specifications for tower-to-device connection, specifications for network services—that will enable IoT, automated driving, and augmented reality (AR), to name just a few—have yet to be finalized. Current projections for the second set of 5G standards by 3GPP point to a summer (June) release date.
Why We Shouldn’t Be Rushing Summer
The current 5G momentum is certainly leading to mounting pressure to rush the standards process. Rushing the 5G standards would be a huge blunder as seen from the hurried standards process for 3G and 4G, that had resulted in timing issues, interoperability issues, and all sorts of complexities and inefficiencies. Slowing down and taking our time to create a more robust standard will ultimately result in products that truly deliver a transformative experience for consumers.
Bridging the Standards Gap Between Now and Summer
Fortunately, slowing down the standards process doesn’t have to inhibit 5G development. While we look forward to a robust set of network services standards in the summer, carriers and manufacturers can use testing to bridge the gap. Testing can go a long way in simulating realistic test environments, and fortunately for us, the standards agreed to in December established the reuse of existing 4G infrastructure. Focus would then be on areas targeting large bandwidth and low latency applications. Having said that, there are known challenges to creating this ideal, realistic test environment, which would impact the accuracy and reliability of testing.
Over the air (OTA) conditions pose a major problem due to the very short range of frequencies that 5G promises to leverage, that are also extremely susceptible to line-of-sight issues as objects just a few inches across can cause interference. 5G developers require end-to-end testing expertise as they need to set up a testing chamber with laboratory conditions, and replicating real-world conditions by distorting signals and introducing channel model effects. In addition to laboratory conditions, developers can also carry out testing in the field. Contrary to the myth that 5G requires mmWave bands, most early deployments in Asia run on sub-6 GHz bands which are in ample supply in other global markets.
Helping You Carry 5G Development Forward
At Keysight, we’re aggressively rolling out 5G NR ready products and applications—including several industry-firsts showcased at the MWC 2018—to help developers carry out accurate, reliable testing, and move forward quickly in 5G development. This will allow the 5G momentum that has been built up over the past several months to continue while letting the standards process play out by summer.
I leave you now with a couple of free 5G resources you will find useful. More to come towards summer.