BARCELONA, Spain — A top Verizon executive says that it is possible the company could commercially launch its pre-standard fixed 5G service by year-end 2018 if the company’s 5G friendly user trials are successful.
Last week Verizon said it would offer pre-commercial 5G services to pilot customers in 11 markets by mid-year. Those markets include Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta; Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton, Massachusetts; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Miami; Sacramento, California; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.
In an interview here at Mobile World Congress with SDxCentral, Adam Koeppe, Verizon’s vice president of technology planning, said that if those friendly user trials are successful, the company could have commercial equipment deployed and live by year-end 2018. Koeppe added that the company will evaluate the trials by looking at three areas – technical success, operational success, and whether the product can scale.
Verizon also will be evaluating the business model for the service, looking at how much it costs to deploy and provision as well as maintain.
Koeppe added that he’s confident that Verizon’s 5G Technology Forum partners that include vendors such as Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, Qualcomm, and Apple will be able to meet this aggressive timeline and will have equipment available. “Our tech partners are completely aligned with that success scenario,” Koeppe said.
The 11 markets were selected, according to Koeppe, because they were areas where Verizon had 28 GHz spectrum available from its recent acquisition of XO Communications. Plus, Verizon wanted markets that presented a variety of different challenges. For example, it wanted urban and suburban markets, residential and enterprise customers, and it wanted to offer service to a variety of different types of dwellings, such as apartment buildings and houses. “We wanted to find good demographic and topographic mixes,” he said.
The trials will also give Verizon’s field technicians a chance to handle the different provisioning of equipment and customer service.
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Of course with that aggressive launch timing, Verizon’s fixed wireless pre-5G deployment will not be 3GPP standards compliant. Koeppe downplayed that issue, noting that he believes that once the 3GPP standard is available, the company will likely just need a software update to comply. “The infrastructure and the customer premises equipment (CPE) development in the 5GTF is the same as in the 3GPP,” he said.
5G NR Spec
Meanwhile, several industry players are hoping to push the 3GPP to accelerate the 5G standardization process. Earlier this week, AT&T, NTT DoCoMo, Ericsson, Qualcomm, SK Telecom, Vodafone, British Telecom, Telstra, Korea Telecom, Intel, LG, Huawei, Sprint, and others announced their interest in accelerating the 5G New Radio (NR) specification schedule to enable large-scale trials and deployments as early as 2019. The 5G NR spec is part of Release 15, which is considered the global 5G standard for both sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum.
Verizon was noticeably absent from that list of operators and vendors. Koeppe said that the company is contributing to that 5G NR specification, but that it has always advocated for having the same timeline for the standalone and non-standalone 5G architecture. He says this proposal pushes the timeline on non-standalone 5G architecture but not the standalone.
Non-standalone 5G NR uses the existing LTE radio and evolved packet core network as an anchor network. Standalone NR does not.
Verizon headquarters in Basking Ridge, N.J.