BARCELONA – Qualcomm calls it Pre-5G. Nokia calls it 4.9G. Verizon has its own spec pushed by 5GTF (Verizon 5G Technical Forum).
The show floor of this year’s Mobile World Congress was loaded with new monikers that reflect the cellular industry’s desire to boost the current LTE business while milking the promise of 5G, which isn’t here yet.
MWC participants this year have gotten a message both clear and muddled: the business of carriers and tech suppliers hangs for the time being on “a precursor to 5G,” instead of 5G.
CEVA CEO Gideon Wertheizer told us this week: “The day of LTE is far from over.” CEVA, an IP vendor of DSP cores, is no 5G naysayer. It has a firm foothold in 5G base station designs. But Wertheizer bluntly said, “What we see [on the show floor] about 5G is still a lot of wishful thinking.”
The complex 5G spec has a lot to unpack.
As noted at MWC by Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries, the promise of a 5G rollout by 2020 is “too aggressive,” especially in light of its still-incomplete forbearer, 4G. He noted in a panel discussion that in Europe today, the implementation of 4G stands at 40 percent. In the U.S., that number is 60 percent.
Some cellular operators are conveniently shifting the conversation from a 5G standard still in the making to the promotion of “5G” fixed wireless service. Ironically, 5G fixed wireless service doesn’t cover mobile applications. It targets consumers at home. Verizon Communications and AT&T, for example, are hoping to leverage the fixed wireless technology to solve their last-mile fiber deployment challenges as they compete with the cable guys.
Both operators and tech suppliers are finally acknowledging that the cellular industry, most likely, won’t be able to move the needle on 5G until 2020, if they stick to 5G New Radio deployments based on a standard-compliant 5G NR infrastructure.
They need a plan B.
Many 3GPP members are now working on specification documents for “an intermediate milestone,” a configuration called “Non-Standalone 5G NR,” according to a Qualcomm’s press release issued Feb. 25.
But what in the world is Non-Standalone 5G NR? What’s the schedule leading up to 5G? If the industry finally agrees on the 5G NR, what will it look like?
Matt Grob, CTO at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (Photo: EE Times)
EE Times sat down with Matthew Grob, Qualcomm's chief technology officer, at the Mobile World Congress this week.
We drilled him down on wide ranging topics including Qualcomm’s view on 5G, NB-IoT, LTE-Unlicensed, SoC strategy, and the pending acquisition of NXP Semiconductors.
Following are the excerpts of our one-on-one.