BARCELONA, Spain — With plans to launch a commercial mobile 5G network in 2019, T-Mobile is already looking ahead at the advanced capabilities that 5G will make possible. “Network slicing in the 600 MHz is terribly exciting to us,” said T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray in an interview here at Mobile World Congress 2018.
“With network slicing in 5G we won’t have to exercise the whole core [network],” Ray said. However, he is cautious about jumping too far ahead. “All those pieces — from the core slicing to MEC [multi-access edge computing] — will live a vibrant life. But we need 5G momentum from a radio perspective before we can exploit the other benefits.”
T-Mobile so far has been very quiet about any efforts to work in the open source community. And Ray remains guarded on the topic. “Maybe,” he quipped when asked if T-Mobile would join some of the open source groups and follow in the footsteps of competitors AT&T and Verizon.
Both AT&T and Verizon are members of the ORAN [open RAN] Alliance, formerly the xRAN Forum. Yesterday, the xRAN Forum announced it had merged with the C-RAN Alliance to form ORAN. The group’s goal is to virtualize the radio network.
That is a lofty goal, according to Ray. “It is damn difficult,” he said. And he added that operators need to support the vendor community, which is working very hard to make 5G viable in the millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum. “There’s been a ton of investment from the vendor community that we work with to bring those capabilities to life. There has to be a path to revenue for their R&D.”
T-Mobile yesterday announced that it will use equipment from Ericsson and Nokia to deploy mobile 5G in 30 markets nationwide. The deployment will begin this year, but the company won’t commercially launch 5G until 5G smartphones are available in early 2019.
Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas, a trade group that advocates for operator 4G and 5G deployments in the Americas, said that T-Mobile and all four major operators in the U.S. are pushing to be at the forefront of 5G, which is good for the market and for competition in the U.S.
Ray said that it’s important to be one of the first operators to launch 5G because “no one wants to be seen as a laggard.” He also said that being early with 5G resonates with customers. “How you market your technical capability and network performance is a big reason why people will buy.”