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Wireless

Verizon to launch first 5G pilot services by mid-2017

Wednesday 22 February 2017 | 15:14 CET | News
Verizon announced plans to deliver the first 5G services to customers in specific markets by the middle of this year. The company said it will offer 5G "pre-commercial" services to select customers in 11 markets throughout the country, based on "several hundred cell sites that cover several thousand customer locations". 

The pilot service will be available during the first half of 2017 in the metropolitan areas Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville (NJ), Brockton (MA), Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle and Washington, DC. 

The operator is working with partners in its 5G Technology Forum (5GTF) set up in 2015. They have already been conducting field tests for around a year based on a 5GTF-developed radio specification for 5G, and Verizon said late last year that it expects 5G to be ready much sooner than the year 2020 as most industrywatchers claim. 

Vendors on the commercial trial include Ericsson and Samsung Electronics, and while they said they are preparing 5G for multiple use cases, it appears Verizon's first services will be fixed-wireless broadband for homes and offices. Verizon said the 5GTF delivered an open specification for 5G fixed wireless that is "immediately implementable". 

Samsung said the trial will use 28 GHz spectrum to test fixed wireless broadband. Its 5G Access Units, installed throughout a city’s business and residential neighborhoods, will link radio signals to a virtualized core network set up in Verizon data centres. In pre-commercial testing, which began in December 2016, the 5G system demonstrated multi-gigabit throughputs at radio distances of nearly 500 meters across each of the different environments selected for the customer trials. The Samsung 5G system is designed to be upgradable to support 3GPP standards for New Radio and Next-Generation Core, once available. 

Samsung and Verizon 5G customer trials will begin in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington, DC, with a fifth location in Michigan starting trials later in Q2. They will use CPE, a window antenna and 5G radio and core network equipment from Samsung, and Verizon will deliver broadband and VoIP services during the trial.

The early 5G launch sees Verizon continuing with its strategy to focus on network quality in order to command a premium for its services and maintain its lead in the US mobile market. The company said in a statement: "Verizon's network legacy is rooted in being the first to deliver to customers next-generation wireless technology, coast to coast, before any other carrier. With 5G, Verizon is once again poised to usher in a new era of network technology, setting the pace for both 5G technical development and its emerging eco-system." 

Verizon's closest rival AT&T is not to be left behind, and has also just announced that it completed fixed wireless 5G tests in the 39 GHz band with Nokia. AT&T plans more tests with mmWave spectrum later this year and is also looking at using 5G for fixed wireless broadband.

The first mobile 5G services are not expected to start until late this year or early 2018, as Korean operators prepare for a launch for the Olympics there next February and Russian operators for the 2018 World Cup next summer. Telia has also said that it aims to be first with mobile 5G in Nordic capital cities in 2018. 

 



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