A single global standard over an agreed set of frequency bands helps both travelers and technology companies, which must build products that support all global standards and frequency bands.
Today's LTE services are being delivered over more than 40 different bands around the globe. Researchers are exploring a variety of 5G concepts in bands that range from 28 GHz to 200 GHz -- a much broader swath of spectrum than currently used for cellular services.
In the past two generations, China drove separate standards for 3G and 4G. The country's TD-SCDMA standard for 3G did not get significant traction in the market, but its TDD variant of LTE has been seeing some adoption.
Mohr guessed that developers supporting both variants of LTE may spend 20-30% more effort than they would if they focused on a single standard. In addition, he said, technology suppliers get lower economies of scale when markets fragment.
China, like any region or company, is motivated to have a balanced intellectual property position. In the past, its manufacturers have mainly paid royalties to make products based on standards defined in the West. In anticipation of the next round, China has been working for some time on a variety of 5G technologies, said Xiaohu You, chairman of China's National 863 5G Project and a professor at Southeast University in Nanjing.
For example, China Mobile has proposed the concept of running a cellular network like a cloud service with a central bank of servers. The Cloud Radio Access Network "is an area of future 5G architecture where China is ahead of the US and Europe," You told EE Times in an email exchange. "We did a lot of fundamental research and practical implementation in this direction."
All sides say it's too early to tell whether there will be one or multiple 5G standards. Mohr hopes to have collaboration pacts in place this fall that will spawn workshops and other events next year that could lead to consensus on 5G services and systems.
The European Union will elect new representatives to its parliament who will start work in November. That could delay regulators' efforts to strike 5G collaboration agreements with their counterparts in China and Japan, Mohr said.
WRC-15 is seen as a key moment for technologists to help harmonize spectrum for 5G millimeter wave services.
(Source: China's IMT-2020)
Tomorrow: China, Korea pave roads to 5G
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times