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Verizon announces commencement of 5G field trials in 2016

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Giant US telco Verizon is one of the first major operators to go public with concrete plans for 5G trials, despite the standard being as yet undefined, with field trials commencing next year.

Verizon felt compelled to use the word ‘aggressive’ liberally when describing its 5G strategy, with its aggressive roadmap ensuring an aggressive pace of innovation. The generally accepted 2020 date for 5G to become a commercial reality is, apparently, far too distant for Verizon’s liking and by ramping up its aggression it intends to move things along more quickly.

The announcement was made in the shadow of the inaugural Verizon 5G Technology Forum last month. The reality behind this 5G claim seems to be a bunch of R&D environments, developing individual technologies likely to comprise the standard. There are a number of pockets of R&D in other parts of the world, especially South Korea, that regularly make lofty 5G announcements, and this is likely to remain the case for the next five years.

“5G is no longer a dream of the distant future,” said Roger Gurnani, Chief Information and Technology architect for Verizon. “We feel a tremendous sense of urgency to push forward on 5G and mobilize the ecosystem by collaborating with industry leaders and developers to usher in a new generation of innovation.”

The 5G Forum was also attended by Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung. “When you’re planning a technological evolution at this scale it must be a collaboration of players in the ecosystem,” said Marcus Weldon, CTO of Alcatel-Lucent and President of Bell Labs. “Having Verizon initiate this effort now, even as 4G LTE technology has so much headroom left, will no doubt add to the rich fabric of our digital lives for many years to come.”

“A lot of development and requirements for 5G networks have so far come from Asian operators,” said Rima Qureshi, Chief Strategy Officer for Ericsson. “It’s exciting to see a U.S. company accelerate the rate of innovation and introduce new partners.”

The development of a major new mobile standard has to be a collective effort, but that doesn’t mean the participants won’t try to infer their contribution is especially significant. The 4G era was defined by smartphones, but that market is now very mature. 5G will be defined by things like IoT and the integration of mobile connectivity to pretty much everything. Accordingly the stakes are very high, which is something telcos are acutely aware of.

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