Verizon has said that its goal is to collaborate with vendors on some early specifications and then contribute those to the 3GPP, the mobile industry standards body responsible for creating the 5G standard. Verizon insists that its early release of these 5G specifications won’t create fragmentation in the industry.
But a top AT&T executive said he finds that hard to believe. In an interview with SDxCentral at last week’s 2016 CTIA Super Mobility conference, Tom Keathley, AT&T’s senior vice president of wireless network architecture and design, said he is certain that not all of Verizon’s 5G specs will be adopted by the 3GPP.
“There are items in their spec that won’t be accepted. I can guarantee it,” he said. Keathley believes that building equipment based upon this early specification won’t be good for 5G deployment because it could potentially lead to different networks being built.
When Verizon released its 5G spec last July, the company said the guidelines were primarily for testing and validating 5G components that will help chipset vendors and others develop interoperable 5G gear and assist with pre-standard testing and fabrication.
Verizon’s vice president of technology planning, Adam Koeppe, said in an interview with SDxCentral in late August that he is not concerned about non-standard equipment being deployed. “We are comfortable with proceeding forward with it,” he said.
Although Ericsson is one of the vendors working with Verizon’s 5G spec, Manish Jindal, head of technology and strategy development for Ericsson North America, said that ultimately carriers will need to move to standardized gear and that it will be difficult for one company to influence the 3GPP standards process. “It will be hard for one company to drive that contribution,” he said.
That sentiment was echoed by Nokia. “At the last 3GPP meeting in Korea, there were 500 members there,” said Michael Murphy, Nokia’s global 5G head of technology. “Convincing 500 members to vote for this is no small task.”
Pushing the Envelope
AT&T’s tactic is to not release its own specifications but instead to try to speed commercialization of 5G once the 3GPP releases its first official specs, expected in mid-2018. Keathley believes that some of those specifications, particularly those pertaining to the chipsets, could be available by late 2017.
“In order to accelerate the actual deployment of 5G gear, it has to start with the chipsets. We have to align on specs for Layer 1 and Layer 2. We could align on those specs in December 2017,” Keathley said.
AT&T has formed a group to speed 5G commercialization after the 3GPP finishes the first release of the 5G spec. Potential partners in that group include China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, KDDI, LG, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Qualcomm Technologies, Samsung, SK Telecom, Telstra, and Vodafone.