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Fixed-Wireless Dominates In First 5G Services Over 4G Replacement

The first 5G mobile service has been launched in the US by AT&T. However, the first 5G smartphones won’t be available until 2019, according Telecompaper. Fixed-wireless 5G, using the mobile network as a replacement for fixed broadband, appears to be attracting more attention from operators in the initial service launches and trials.

US operators AT&T and Verizon said recently they expect to have the first 5G smartphones in H1 2019, working with Samsung. Other manufacturers such as OnePlus are also preparing their first 5G devices for next year, while Apple is reportedly waiting for 2020 to launch a 5G iPhone. For AT&T, its initial mobile 5G service only works over a hotspot developed with Netgear, and HTC has also announced a ‘5G hub’ with Telstra in Australia and US operator Sprint.
5G FWA first
A fixed-line replacement, known as fixed-wireless access or FWA, is the most important initial application for 5G launches. This is attracting existing mobile operators, as well as other players interested in expanding their broadband coverage, especially in less densely populated areas. Telefonica Deutschland, a challenger in Germany with its own mobile network and fibre backbone but no fixed access network, is among those trying out FWA, in cooperation with Samsung. Verizon in the US is also working with Samsung and launched FWA services in select markets in October. 3 UK is adopting a similar strategy, as has O2 CR (the former Czech unit of Telefonica, now owned by local investor PPF).
Swiss operator Sunrise has said already that it plans to migrate fixed customers using its virtual offer over copper to 5G services, under the motto ‘5G for People’. However, it will still serve FTTH customers in cities over the fibre network.
This is only a few of the many trials and launches in recent months. One of the more notable ones was the simultaneous launch of commercial 5G services by all three Korean mobile operators in early December. This also was just FWA services, targeting first business users.
The Scandinavian operators, often in the lead on new technologies, were not far behind, albeit only with test networks. Telenor launched a FWA trial for home broadband in Norway, and Telia started testing with a research institute in Sweden, ahead of an expected launch in 2020 when more 5G spectrum becomes available. Telia is more advanced in Finland, with test networks in Helsinki and the industrial base Oulu, and plans a commercial service launch in early 2019.
Dutch operator KPN also started four 5G test beds. Notably FWA is not part of its plans, as KPN said it sees 5G mainly as serving the business market. Its motto is ‘4G connects people, 5G connects society’.
According to the latest projections from Ericsson, 5G is expected to reach 1.5 billion users in 2024 and coverage of around 40 percent of the world population by the same date.
Financing and shared networks
5G is also attracting new investment spending. Nokia and Ericsson, as well as Finnish operator DNA have obtained loans from the European Investment Bank to support their R&D and roll-out efforts. The UK government has also made 5G a part of its infrastructure investment plans, including support for a trial of 5G services along railways.
The Czech Republic is considering a plan to build a national 5G network in the 700 MHz band, which could attract new partners (such as Orange, which is not yet active in the country). The existing operators could lease capacity on the network. Chorus, the wholesale operator spun off from the New Zeleand incumbent Spark, also has raised the idea of a shared 5G infrastructure. Mexico may also see a shared 5G network, after launching its national ‘Red Compartida’ wholesale network earlier this year.
TIM (Telecom Italia) recently gave an interesting statistic: 5G could reduce the cost of data delivery by 70 percent. To finish, we also note the informative 5G portal started by Telstra and full of facts. – Comunicatii
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