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5G Network Technologies

Verizon’s 5G specs veer off track from 3GPP, says research group

Verizon has been relentless in its pursuit to become the first US operator to deploy 5G and it has certainly made significant headway, but it may have fallen at the first hurdle. Research suggests that Verizon’s specifications for fixed wireless 5G have veered off track with those set out by 3GPP – the body forming the fundamental 5G standard.

The issue is that Verizon’s specs include a subcarrier spacing value of 75 kHz, whereas the 3GPP has laid out guidelines that subcarrier spacing must increase by 30 kHz at a time, according to research from Signals Research Group. This means that different networks can work in synergy if required without interfering with each other.

Verizon’s 5G specs do stick to 3GPP requirements in that it includes MIMO and millimeter wave (mmWave). MmWave is a technology that both AT&T and Verizon are leading the way in – which could succeed in establishing spectrum which is licensed fairly traditionally as the core of the US’s high frequency build outs.

A Verizon-fronted group recently rejected a proposal from AT&T to push the 3GPP into finalizing an initial 5G standard for late 2017, thus returning to the original proposed time of June 2018. Verizon was supported by Samsung, ZTE, Deutsche Telecom, France Telecom, TIM and others, which were concerned the split would defocus SA and New Radio efforts and even delay those standards being finalized.

Verizon has been openly criticized in the industry, mostly by AT&T (unsurprisingly), as its hastiness may lead to fragmentation – yet it still looks likely to beat AT&T to be the first operator to deploy 5G, if only for fixed access.

Verizon probably wants the industry to believe that it was prepared for eventualities such as this – prior to the study from Signal Research Group, the operator said its pre-standard implementation will be close enough to the standard that it could easily achieve full compatibility with simple alterations. However, Signals Research Group’s president Michael Thelander has been working with the 3GPP since the 5G standard was birthed, and he begs to differ.

Thelander told FierceWireless, “I believe what Verizon is doing is not hardware-upgradeable to the real specification. It’s great to be trialing, even if you define your own spec, just to kind of get out there and play around with things. That’s great and wonderful and hats off to them. But when you oversell it and call it 5G and talk about commercial services, it’s not 5G. It’s really its own spec that has nothing to do with Release 16, which is still three years away. Just because you have something that operates in millimeter wave spectrum and uses Massive MIMO and OFDM, that doesn’t make it a 5G solution.”

Verizon’s director of network infrastructure planning, Sanyogita Shamsunder, avoided addressing the issue of the subcarrier spacing, but said in a statement, ““Verizon continues to tweak the specifications based on trial learnings. Early commercial equipment will be closely aligned with both standards and software upgradeable as needed.”

The development of technologies that underpin the emerging 5G are still in their infancy, despite the claims made in the daily flood of 5G announcements, but it’s worth noting that Verizon has a secret weapon with its long-term partner Qualcomm.

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