Verizon, Telefonica paving way for 5G with new partner deals

Verizon is working with South Korean carrier KT to develop 5G technologies ahead of the planned commercialization in 2020 – as the two operators aim to be at the forefront of the first 5G deployments.

The announcement involves collaborative efforts in the advancement of SDN (software-defined networking) and NFV (network function virtualization), and Verizon is also keenly interested in KT’s knowhow in millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum – a technology expected to be a key component in 5G, and in which the US is taking a lead in trials.

It’s worth remembering that Verizon was the first to roll out LTE in the US in 2010 (and second in the world), and the operator will be determined to replicate this achievement with 5G. Verizon has been investing in pre-5G R&D for around five years now, in partnership with Nokia, Ericsson, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung, among others. It recently tested its prototype equipment in the 28 GHz band, one of the high frequency bands which the FCC is proposing for 5G mobile services, using Samsung Galaxy smartphones.

The 28 GHz band is not on the ITU’s 5G spectrum study list, which suggests it will not support global implementations and roaming. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel recently said that the US will need to work in this spectrum without outside support. But Korean expertise in nearby bands will be relevant, and KT’s chairman Hwang Chang-gyu, welcoming the Verizon alliance, noted that no single country or enterprise will be able to develop a global standard for 5G.

In a speech last week, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the US would become the first country in the world to open up high band spectrum for new 5G networks and applications – his proposal awaits approval, with the FCC set to vote on July 14.

As for KT, it says it will be trialing 5G for the first time at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018. Last year, ZTE added KT to its list of 5G partners, as the two formed a 5G testbed in Seoul, to research and commercialize new technologies. Now Telefonica has followed suit, announcing 5G development deals last week with rival Chinese technology giants ZTE and Huawei.

The Spanish incumbent has signed a memorandum of understanding with ZTE, which aims to bring together contributions from players in key 5G platforms including IoT, cloud and network virtualization. The separate announcement with Huawei centers on collaboration to advance technologies including Cloud-RAN, 5G radio and core architectures and MIMO (multiple input multiple output).

“Telefonica continues advancing in its role as a key player in the development of 5G technologies, where we have been actively contributing to relevant international projects, industry associations and standardization bodies. We are very pleased to have reached this agreement with ZTE to cooperate on the next generation of mobile communications technology,” said CTO Enrique Blanco.

“We are very pleased to have reached this further agreement with Huawei to keep cooperating on 5G and the next generation RAN. The collaboration with Huawei in this area allows sharing the true requirements of a global operator as Telefonica, and helping to focus on providing the right solutions on this advanced network at the right time,” Blanco added.

Verizon, Telefonica, and many other operators round the world, are seeking to use high capacity 5G to enhance conventional business cases – video, broadband data and quad play – before then moving on to new revenue streams like ultra-low power IoT.

And AT&T isn’t about to stand by and watch Verizon surpass it in 5G – earlier this month it claimed that field tests in partnership with Ericsson delivered speeds of 10Gbps – significantly faster than Verizon’s first published test result of 3.77Gbps.

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