• Operator announcements at MWCA focused on 5G roll-out plans including cities, timelines, and infrastructure plans.
• As countrywide launches (with devices) for mobile 5G services are not slated until 2019/2020, the race to 5G does not mean much yet for potential business customers.
MWCA Operator Announcements on 5G
|AT&T||Names 5G cities and notes Nokia, Samsung and Ericsson as suppliers||9/10||Augurs first-mover status for Mobile 5G (end of year)|
|Sprint||To deploy (and demoed at MWCA) dual-mode massive MIMO for 5G||9/11||First U.S. live 5G NR connection using massive MIMO|
|T-Mobile||Will spend $3.5 billion with Ericsson for 5GNR equipment||9/11||Shows commitment (along with $3.5 billion commitment to Nokia)|
|Verizon||Renames 5G to “5G Ultra Wideband”||9/11||Marketing/branding/PR benefits|
|Verizon||Fixed residential 5G service to launch in 4 US cities October 1||9/11||Achieves U.S. first-mover status for fixed 5G|
|Vodafone||Doubles Cell-Sites for 5G NB-IoT Network||9/12||Reflects high demand expectations from enterprises|
|SigFox||Plans Heavy U.S. Expansion||9/11||Too little, too late?|
The vast majority of operator announcements at MWCA were about 5G – touting future plans for rollouts, acknowledging large commitments to infrastructure vendors, and claiming technical superiority for their respective spectrum or architectural approach. In Verizon’s case, the operator announced a 5G service rollout for October 1 (called Verizon 5G Home), targeting the residential fixed broadband segment. While excitement about the service was muted, considering it’s only in four cities, it’s a fixed-only service (competing primarily with U.S. cable providers), it uses a proprietary version of 5G, and typical speeds will only average 300 Mbps, the announcement still gave Verizon first-mover status. Vodafone’s announcement was different from the others as it specifically has to do with expansion of capacity to support its NB-IoT network, but it is also doubling the number of its 5G cell towers to underpin the expected high demand for IoT from enterprises.
In keynotes, The GSMA was very upbeat about 5G rollouts and uptake, forecasting that the number of 5G connections globally will reach 1.3 billion by 2025, covering 40 percent of the world’s population, and that the Americas will account for over 260 million of these connections, or 20 percent of the global market. GSMA also expects that in the U.S., 50 cities will have 5G by this time next year. GSMA further forecast the 5G opportunity in the enterprise, noting that an additional 10 billion industrial IoT connections will be made between now and 2025.
Where was IoT?
While there were few actual operator announcements about IoT, there were some notable panel discussions. For example, AT&T said it is seeing good progress in selling 4G LTE and LTE-M services, with plans for an NB-IoT rollout next spring. Sprint discussed its new Curiosity IoT platform powered by Ericsson, noting that its virtualized core utilizes servers by Packet (in which SoftBank has an equity stake) to push compute power to the edge, substantially reducing the distance data needs to travel over the network for processing. Sprint also noted that a security framework provided by ARM (owned by parent SoftBank) provides the platform with threat models, security analysis, device management and delivery of over-the-air firmware updates.
In other service provider news:
• Sprint demoed solutions for retail customer engagement with Cloud Pepper (humanoid robot) and Smart Retail GoBox, which automates the purchase and checkout process with AI and IoT sensors.
• The Mobile Authentication Taskforce, which includes AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, showed an authentication solution to secure user accounts. It uses multi-factor authentication, combining the carriers’ proprietary, network-based authentication with other methods to verify a user’s identity, and generate a device-based ID.
• Accenture weighed in with a new Accelerator Services program, to help with readiness assessment, business strategy, methodology, device innovation, deployment acceleration, network operations, and maintenance. The service is targeted to communications service providers, device manufacturers, and non-traditional operators such as multiple-system operators, internet software, and platform players, and over-the-top content suppliers.
It would be difficult to remain entirely cynical about 5G, given the excitement about the technology at the show, but the thrill remains tempered by reality; widespread deployment is still a ways off, operators need to go beyond connectivity services to make enough money to pay off their huge investments, and real-world business use cases are still few and far between.