MWC: Mobile 22 unite for faster 5G adoption

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Operators and vendors push for standard 5G radio after industry trials threaten diversification

A group of 15 mobile operators and seven vendors have joined together to speed up approval of a radio specification for 5G technology.

The companies say that they want to accelerate the approval schedule for what’s called 5G New Radio (NR) – but they want trials of existing interim 5G systems to continue before that happens.

The move is being seen at Mobile World Congress (MWC), which starts today in Barcelona, as designed to offer a long-term route to bring together the many trials that are taking place over the next two years. Some in the industry worry that these will create many variants of 5G, and the 22 companies are wanting it to be seen that they are planning a way through that to end up with a common 5G standard.

“As the demand for 5G commercialisation is rapidly increasing, it is crucial to complete globally agreed 5G standardisation in time,” said Park Jin-hyo, head of network technology at SK Telecom’s R&D Centre.

SK Telecom is one of the 16 operators backing the move, and put out the announcement on Sunday on behalf of all 22 operators and vendors.

Tom Keathley, senior vice president for wireless network architecture and design at AT&T, said: “Our focus is on prioritising important specifications in the standards to bring 5G to market as quickly as possible. In the process of defining any standard, it is normal to make some decisions earlier than others. These accelerated decisions on key components of 5G New Radio standards will allow an earlier start on the development of the infrastructure and devices of tomorrow’s 5G deployments.”

The move identifies interim projects built to specifications that are being called non-standalone 5G NR, but says they will lead eventually to standalone 5G NR.

Seizo Onoe, executive vice president and chief technology officervat NTT DoCoMo, said: “Acceleration of the standardisation schedule will facilitate early implementation of the standard-compliant 5G NR. We will ensure the highly-stable 5G services through large-scale trial activities with a wider range of industry partners.”

The operators behind the move are AT&T, BT, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, KDDI, KT, LG Uplus, NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, Sprint, Swisscom, Telia Company, Telstra, TIM and Vodafone. Vendors are Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, LG Electronics, Qualcomm, Vivo and ZTE. The list does not include Nokia or Samsung among the vendors, nor China Mobile, Orange or Telefónica among the operators.

The 22 companies that are on the list say they will support a corresponding work plan proposal for the first phase of the 5G NR specification at the next radio access network meeting of 3GPP, the mobile standards group. It takes place in Dubrovnik next week..

Luke Ibbetson, head of research and development and strategy at Vodafone, said: “Standardisation of the new radio interface will be critical to the successful development of 5G over the coming years. As the industry starts to design and test a new generation of services and applications, a common global standard for the underlying mobile technology will allow innovation to flourish and help us achieve economies of scale.”

Howard Watson, the head of technology at BT, which owns UK operator EE, said: “By accelerating the creation of the new radio interface we will be able to enable the 5G experience for customers sooner driving our purpose of using communications to make a better world.”