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5G Americas President on Mobile Carriers in a 5G Ecosystem

Interview with 5G Americas President Chris Pearson after his keynote at the recent DC5G 2017 Summit in Washington, D.C.

5G Americas President Chris Pearson has operated within the mobile wireless industry for almost 30 years, and has his finger directly on the pulse of 5G development. This month, Pearson delivered a riveting keynote on the transformation of mobile wireless networks to kick off the DC5G 2017 Summit in Washington, D.C. Here, he shares some additional thoughts on where 5G is headed and how mobile carriers plan to take advantage, as part of our speaker Q&A series and 5G coverage.

VIA SATELLITE: Where is 5G as it stands? How close are we to deployment?

Pearson: Right now we’re developing the 5G standard. That’s being done at The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). They’ll have the 5G New Radio (NR) Non-Standalone Standard, which is called the first phase of 5G, completed by the end of this year. That [will] be the 5G New Radio that [will] tie into existing LTE packet core networks.

The full standardization will be in two phases, in what’s called Release 15 and Release 16. The full Release 15 will be done in September 2018; the full Release 16 will be done by December 2019. Everything will be submittable to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for their deadline in 2020.

VIA SATELLITE: What’s 5G Americas role in the 5G rollout?

Pearson: We, as an organization, work in three main areas, whether it’s 5G or just mobile wireless in general: technical recommendations, regulatory/policy recommendations, and then industry education throughout the entire wireless ecosystem, talking to industry analysts, media, regulators, operators — everyone that has a stake in the mobile wireless industry.

In 5G we were very early with our technical and spectrum recommendations. We actually had a white paper on 5G before anybody was talking too much about it. We did that because we wanted to help set the technical, spectrum and policy direction of 5G.

VIA SATELLITE: Could you describe some of the different approaches to 5G you see mobile carriers taking?

Pearson: In the U.S. market, it appears everyone will be looking at 5G from a little different perspective and that’s good because that’s what drives innovation … We have operators that are looking at 5G for low band, mid band and high band spectrum, and each of those will offer different types of use cases. One might be for enhanced mobile broadband … Others are looking at the mid band to provide that enhanced mobile broadband but also looking at other options because of spectrum holdings. And you’re looking at high band spectrum — what would be considered millimeter wave — being used for fixed access to the home or business.

VIA SATELLITE: How and when do you see 5G being deployed in regions outside of the United States?

Pearson: It’s expected that Latin America will get 5G after the North American markets. It typically lags a few years. The U.S. has been the leader in 4G and we expect the country to be a leader in 5G as well, but you also have the Asia-Pacific region and Europe that obviously have made 5G a priority. Specifically, if you look at South Korea and Japan, they have been at the forefront of their trials. They have the Winter and Summer Olympics coming up — for both of those events, they want to showcase 5G in pre-standardized deployments. You also have China as a key player.

VIA SATELLITE: How do you see the way we think about and distribute spectrum changing to accommodate 5G?

Pearson: I think the way we think about spectrum has already started to change for the mobile wireless industry. And that is that we are looking at, the need to use low-, mid- and high-band spectrum as well as licensed, shared and unlicensed spectrum to meet the needs of the connected society as we move toward 5G. Historically, this has been slowly evolving over time. I think as we move to 5G it accelerates that concept of spectrum.

For instance, our industry before had not used millimeter wave spectrum but now millimeter wave spectrum will have a big role in 5G. The same goes for what we consider to be mid-band spectrum now versus before. We need to look at all the spectrum as integral to what we want and need to do to connect our society in the future.

When it comes to the use cases like smart cities or enhanced mobile broadband or vehicle-to-vehicle [communications], you start to realize that we have the capability to be the glue that holds everything together. To hold everything together you’re going to need lots of spectrum assets.

VIA SATELLITE: How do you see 4G coexisting alongside 5G?

Pearson: LTE will provide the mobile broadband foundation for 5G. Currently if you look at LTE globally, [there are] 551 commercial deployments, with 206 of those already upgraded to what is called LTE Advanced. You will see in the coming months and years continued innovation in LTE that will provide really incredible, robust capabilities with mobile wireless. And that will be basically the roadmap that goes from LTE to LTE Advanced to LTE Advanced Pro.

As far as interoperability and how it will work with 5G, that is built into the standard … This is vital to the success of 5G. 5G is getting the bulk of the news cycle right now, but LTE and the roadmap to LTE Advanced Pro is really a robust innovation roadmap that will serve customers greatly over the years.

To give you another statistic that is quite telling, going out to year-end 2021, globally you’re looking at LTE having 4.8 billion subscribers. At the same time, 5G will just be in its very beginning stages … [with] 111 million subscribers. VS