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(Image courtesy of Tektronix).

Verizon Keeps Word on 5G Testing

Verizon has reiterated plans to have preliminary 5G networks in place as soon as 2017, and kept its promise to start testing 5G networks early this year.

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this month, the wireless carrier showed the results of millimeter wave tests with Samsung. The network combined hybrid adaptive array antennas with automatic beam-forming and multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), streaming video to smartphones inside a moving car over 10 gigabits per second.

Verizon also announced that it had tested a “pre-commercial” version of 5G with Nokia. Operating over 73 GHz and 28 GHz spectrum, the network delivered several gigabits per second with around 1 ms of latency. Verizon said that its 5G networks would run at one gigabit per second. 

Verizon is also working with companies like Ericsson that build wireless infrastructure, including cellular base stations and small cells. Ericsson revealed that in field trials with Verizon, it had used multiple-user MIMO antennas and advanced beam-tracking to reach 10 gigabit per second downloads.

“We plan to expand this testing significantly over the next several months,” said Adam Koeppe, vice president of Verizon’s network technology planning, in a press release. “We want to quickly make some key technical decisions and move rapidly to pre-commercial form factors and testing later this year.”

After Verizon said that it would have preliminary 5G networks by 2017—significantly ahead of the industry’s prediction of around 2020—AT&T responded by saying that it was too soon to make promises about 5G, and that it would rather wait for an international standard to emerge. Qualcomm has also warned against hasty decisions about 5G wireless technology, wanting to ensure that it will represent a huge step over 4G.

Last August, the wireless carrier founded the 5G Technology Forum to get companies working together on technical standards for 5G. The carrier has set up “sandboxes” for wireless research in San Francisco and Waltham, Mass. It has also included venture capital firms looking to invest in new products in the forum.

“No one is going lead alone,” said Aicha Evans, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Communications and Devices group, which has also partnered with Verizon to test software-defined networking, in a blog post. “This is going to require unprecedented collaboration and cooperation between infrastructure vendors, between operators, and between industries not even connected.”

The first major test of these efforts could happen in 2018, when the International Telecommunications Union and telecoms could test 5G at the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang. However, 4G networks could potentially remain the dominant wireless technology for another 10 years.

“They want certain activities that have a 5G experience,” said Matt Grob, chief technology officer at Qualcomm, which has also partnered with Verizon, in a press release. “The industry will get a chance to roll out services in a market and get a sense for what these high-bandwidth, low-latency services are actually going to feel like.”

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