The 5G puzzle for operators: Asia most likely to lead way on deployment

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Mobile operators expect Asia to lead the development and deployment of 5G technologies, according to research from InterDigital.

The operator community as a whole expects Asia (71%) to lead development and deployment of 5G, ahead of North America (52%) and Europe (45%), although operators in North America were more likely to think they would lead the charge. Telcos in Asia are already putting forward their proposals; Japanese operator DoCoMo says it will launch a first release of 5G to align with the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, while in Korea SK Telecom is aiming to demonstrate prototype 5G systems in 2018.

Other operators are not looking at that timeframe, but are bullish on coming close to it. One in three expect their company to launch commercial 5G service before 2021, while the majority expects to be focusing primarily on development work and field trials until 2022.

Better broadband performance (76%) and the Internet of Things (74%) were rated as the primary drivers for 5G technologies, according to the research, while the more specific use cases, such as virtual reality, scored lower but still scored “respectably.” This makes sense now as more consumers and businesses would naturally appreciate faster broadband – but the report’s author, Heavy Reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown, notes use case development “remains a significant issue” for the industry.

Regarding the technology used to underpin 5G, operators expect it to incorporate two or more radio interfaces, as opposed to an altogether new 5G radio. Similarly, respondents argued 5G is likely to use multiple low-band and high-band frequencies with a preference towards the former; 30% of respondents described the sub-5 GHz bands as “critical” for 5G.

“5G will impact everything – every industry, every service provider, and every person on the planet,” Brown notes. “However, to bring a new generation of wireless technology to the mainstream is a colossal undertaking that requires R&D collaboration, spectrum, and a business case.”

In June, Ericsson demonstrated a series of technologies to help shape 5G, with this publication examining a system entitled ‘Multipoint Connectivity with Distributed MIMO’ which, as the name suggests, pings multiple towers and maintains more than one datastream at a time for enhanced speed and reliability. The researchers got to speeds of 10 Gbps with low levels of latency.

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