Mobile operators have accelerated 5G network deployments during 2019, with a non-standalone architecture. These initial deployments in regions of North America, Europe and Asia have anticipated the initial forecasts of the industry. To learn about the reasons for this anticipation and Ericsson’s vision of the future of this technology, RCR Wireless News interviewed Peter Linder, Ericsson’s vice president of marketing and communications for the North American region.
Q: The deployment of 5G networks by mobile operators in certain regions of the world has been more accelerated than what the industry initially expected a few years ago. What is Ericsson’s vision of this acceleration in 5G deployments?
A: It is interesting to note what happened with the launch of 4G in 2009. At that time, operators had different opinions about whether they were going to launch 4G quickly or if they were going to wait for other companies to deploy it before. There was also some uncertainty on the part of mobile terminal providers about the best time to launch 4G. Since the first 4G network was activated until the iPhone was launched, 33 months passed.
Another issue to highlight is that in the first year of 4G, this technology was commercially launched by four or five operators. The difference we perceive with the introduction of 5G is that operators want to have the advantage of moving first so as not to be left behind the competition and lose market share.
In the United States, there are no mobile operators waiting to see how competitors act. That is why many more commercial networks have been launched globally in the first year compared to what happened with 4G technology.
Another important factor is that there is much more availability of devices for 5G networks and by 2020 there will be many more. This had not happened when the 4G technology was launched
Q: What is Ericsson’s forecast for 5G network rollouts during 2020? Do you perceive that there will be more explosive growth than in 2019?
A: Yes. I think one of the important aspects of the introduction of 5G is that there are more options for operators. There are options of high-bands, mid-bands and low-bands to commercially launch 5G. When 4G was launched, all operators did it in the same band. It is also being seen that operators are going to launch 5G in low-bands to optimize coverage. Some operators have initially launched 5G in high-bands, but that was done to have a high performance, not to have a nationwide coverage. It is done to have a lot of capacity in places with high traffic, such as sports stadiums or universities with 40,000 students. What can be said at the moment is that 5G technology is being deployed in several ways and for different needs or uses.
In 2020, we are going to see more 5G deployments in low-bands to increase coverage but also more network deployments using mid -bands and high-bands in specific locations.
Q: How long do you think 4G networks will coexist with the new 5G networks and what is the importance of carrier aggregation technology in this coexistence scenario?
A: With the introduction of 5G, 2G networks have been deactivated and with the introduction of 5G, 3G networks are being shutdown in countries, such as the United States, for example. However, we can affirm that 4G and 5G networks will coexist for many years. Carrier aggregation technology is critical in this coexistence, as it allows operators to combine different 4G carriers with 4G carriers or 4G carriers with 5G carriers.
4G networks will remain for many years and this technology will have many uses in which it makes no sense to deploy 5G. Operators will continue to use 4G to provide primary connectivity to all their customers. Instead, operators will use 5G to offer a more powerful service at specific sites where there are higher traffic requirements.
When I think of 5G, I am not only thinking about how we are going to use this technology but where it is worth having access to 5G. 4G is very useful for many things, but there are certain applications that need 5G to work better, such as streaming mobile games, or very high definition videos. 5G is also required for virtual reality or augmented reality equipment.
Q: What are the benefits of Dynamic Spectrum Sharing technology and what is Ericsson’s commercial offer in this segment?
A: We offer Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, Dual Connectivity and Carrier Aggregation together into a single offering. All the networks that Ericsson has deployed since 2015, were designed to support 4G and 5G technologies. We offer operators a package that includes these three technologies with 5G software that allows an easy and fast introduction of this technology.
Q: How do you see from Ericsson the transition from non-standalone architecture to standalone architecture in 5G deployments? Do you think that there will be more standalone deployments in 2020?
A: The non-standalone architecture was developed to allow a rapid introduction of 5G technology. With this architecture, it is not necessary to change the core of the network, but it is only necessary to change the radio to NR. What we saw during 2019 and will continue to see this year is the launch of 5G with non-standalone networks. In 2020, we will also see the first networks with standalone functionality, but also the operators will be deploying it in different ways. We are pushing this functionality and we are here to collaborate with operators to launch it as quickly as possible.
Our dual-mode core technology combines the EPC and 5GC network functions in a cloud platform for rapid migration to 5G.
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