5G mobile tech finally moves from marketing hype to a hard standard

23 December 2017 by Steve Blum
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A formal, implementable set of specifications for 5G mobile broadband technology and service is now final. The international organisation responsible for the standard – 3GPP – reached agreement on an initial set of specs at a meeting in Portugal on Thursday.

That means that equipment manufacturers can start making gear – first fixed, because that’s easiest, and then mobile – that meets an agreed upon 5G standard. Carriers can implement pilot projects that won’t be orphaned as the technology develops. Superseded perhaps, but not rendered useless from either a technological or a network management perspective.

All four of the big U.S. mobile carriers signed on, along with most of the world’s other heavyweights

AT&T, BT, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Huawei, Intel, KT Corporation, LG Electronics, LG Uplus, MediaTek Inc., NEC Corporation, Nokia, NTT DOCOMO, Orange, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., Samsung Electronics, SK Telecom, Sony Mobile Communications Inc., Sprint, TIM, Telefonica, Telia Company, T-Mobile USA, Verizon, Vodafone, and ZTE have made a statement that the completion of the first 5G NR standard has set the stage for the global mobile industry to start full-scale development of 5G NR for large-scale trials and commercial deployments as early as in 2019.

It’s significant from a broadband development perspective because there is now a firm, widely – virtually universally – standard to measure claims of 5G technology against. It keeps us out of the trap we fell into a decade ago when 4G services were coming to market. Because 4G could mean LTE, which became the de facto standard, or WiMAX, or whatever the marketing department said it was, there was no easy way to debunk false claims of 4G service made by mobile Internet service providers. 5G will be different because there is a commonly accepted standard.

That won’t stop mobile carriers from making false claims. But they’ll only be able to get away with it if we let them.