As the Nokia CTO of North America, Michael Murphy is no newcomer to wireless technology trials and the challenges of competing standards. Murphy works closely with wireless operators on their network migration paths and preparations. Murphy recently talked with SDxCentral about what to expect from 5G trials in 2017.
Early 5G trial results seem very similar. What will we see in terms of 5G trials in 2017? Will it continue to be the same type of tests?
Murphy: We are moving from powerpoint presentations and lab systems to reality, and that will hit in 2017. I expect to see larger-scale trials and real-life scenarios. 5G will go to the home in residential neighborhoods. And from that, all this theory will be tested in real life.
The big pillars to watch are AT&T and Verizon and Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics. The Olympics will happen in February 2018, so Korea has to have the network running in the September timeframe. And it needs to be a fully functioning network.
Are you concerned about competing 5G standards?
Murphy: There are two public specs. One from Verizon and one from KT. They are somewhat similar, but there are small deltas. For example, Verizon is aimed at a fixed deployment. KT is looking at mobility and is including LTE as a wide-area network. It would be preferable if there was only one single specification. But a 3GPP spec doesn’t exist yet, so to deliver it, you have to follow those.
With the 3GPP specification, the good thing is everyone knows about it, so we can plan for it. That makes it easier for transition.
Verizon has said they are confident that their 5G specification will become part of the 3GPP specification. Do you agree?
Murphy: It’s not black and white. Some parts will be part of the standard. Already channel spacing is confirmed to be in the 3GPP 5G standard, and it is not the same as Verizon’s spec. There is already a difference.
When you have multiple specs, you worry about having to swap equipment later. We are planning not to do that, so we are designing appropriately for that.
What does that mean? Do you mean you will be able to make changes just with software?
Murphy: Yes we can make a software change. We don’t have custom silicon yet, so everything is software-configurable. It’s not a challenge right now.
But in two or three years from now, when everyone is starting to develop custom silicon, it may become more challenging. We will have to wait and see.
Do you think that there will be opportunities for non-wireless operators to deploy 5G or even enterprises to deploy 5G?
Murphy: You need spectrum to do 5G, and that means either licensing 28 GHz spectrum, which is the most popular, or 39 GHz spectrum, and that has some cost to it.
The other option is the shared 3.5 GHz. Right now the focus in the U.S. is on LTE in the 3.5 GHz. It remains to be seen whether 3.5 GHz becomes a candidate for 5G in the U.S. For newcomers that don’t want to spend billions on spectrum, it is the easier entry to the market.