Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 has seen dozens of 5G-related announcements, spanning devices, modems, radios, plans, spectrum, and trials.
TechRepublic: IT pro's guide to 5G technology (free PDF)
We round up the biggest announcements on 5G made during MWC in Barcelona this week, and the information we gained from carriers, vendors, and networking companies.
Intel is already working with Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft on bringing 5G connectivity to Windows PCs using the Intel XMM 8000-series commercial 5G modems.
It is showcasing its first 5G-enabled 2-in-1 concept PC during MWC, which is powered by its 8th-generation Core i5 processors and an early 5G modem, with the expectation of bringing 5G-connected PCs to market in the second half of 2019.
Intel GM of 5G Advanced Technologies Rob Topol told ZDNet that 5G-connected PCs will require a complete re-engineering of current 2-in-1s, with the first silicon due at the end of this year, samples at the beginning of next year, and devices in the second half of 2019.
"We wanted to start to experiment with form factors and learn where should we put the antennas. Putting a modem that can support 5Gbps changes even the way that you do thermals and heat transfer inside," he said.
"It doesn't look like a normal tablet or 2-in-1 inside. It really required new engineering, and so those learnings now help us translate them into -- we announced the partnerships with HP, Lenovo, Dell, Microsoft -- to take those learnings and co-engineer in the laptop form factor, as well as using that for tablets and others."
Intel also announced a "multi-year collaboration" with Spreadtrum to produce a 5G phone platform by the second half of 2019 using Intel's XMM 8000-series modem alongside Spreadtrum's application processor.
Huawei unveils its first 5G customer premises equipment (CPE)
Huawei launched its first commercial 5G CPE, a terminal device supporting 3GPP 5G standards with a Huawei-developed Balong 5G01 chipset, as part of its end-to-end 5G solution.
According to the Chinese networking giant, this is the world's first commercial 3GPP 5G chipset supporting download speeds of up to 2.3Gbps across sub-6GHz and millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum bands.
"The Balong 5G01 makes Huawei the first company offering an end-to-end 5G solution through its network, devices, and chipset-level capabilities," Huawei said, with the CPE coming in a sub-6GHz model and an mmWave model, as well as indoor and outdoor units.
"The Huawei low-frequency 5G CPE is small and lightweight, compatible with 4G and 5G networks, and has proven measured download speeds of up to 2Gbps -- 20 times that of 100Mbps fibre. This provides an ultra-fast experience, allowing users to enjoy VR video and gaming experiences, or download a TV show within a second."
Claiming to be the only company to launch full 5G end-to-end solution, Huawei also pointed towards its entire 5G portfolio for 2018: Massive MIMO macro, including the AAU5612, the AAU5310i, and the HAAU5213; Massive MIMO pole site, including the HAAU5112 and the EasyBlink; small cell, consisting of its 5G Lampsite product; devices, including the 5G CPE; baseband, including the BBU5900 and CBU5900; transport, including microwave, IPRAN, FO OTN, and WDM products; and core, consisting of its cloud-based product.
Like Huawei, ZTE's 5G CPE is already under development, with the fellow Chinese company saying it will launch 5G smartphones and tablets in either late 2018 or early 2019.
ZTE further stated that it will be deploying networking products across commercial 5G networks by the first half of next year, with the Chinese telecommunications technology provider also saying it is "well prepared to help operators deploy 5G".
"Ready for commercialisation, ZTE's 5G solutions are going to be launched soon," the company said. "As a pioneer in the 5G era, ZTE has made the rollout of its 5G solutions the core goal."
Alongside the company's 1.2Gbps-capable smartphone announcement this week, ZTE explained that it is helping partners with technology verification through what it called "the most commercially viable 5G field test network currently available".
Australian carrier Telstra finally announced its 5G launch plans, aiming to provide 5G to major cities and regional areas by the end of 2019 using both sub-6GHz and mmWave spectrum.
According to Telstra's 5G roadmap, 2018 will see the deployment of over 1,000 small cells in metro areas to increase capacity, and 4G and 5G integration trials with Ericsson, Intel, and Qualcomm, including interoperability testing.
"Our objective will be to lead the development in 5G, and be the leader in the rollout of Australia, but it's not just about being first -- it's about making sure you have a fully integrated and extensive 5G set of offerings," Telstra CEO Andy Penn told ZDNet at MWC.
"We've always been a leader in technology and will continue to be so, and as I said it's one thing to just sort of put a flag in the ground, but what's more important is we have an integrated set of 5G solutions for customers, and also we will continue to invest in and develop the capability of 4G as well.
"Because ultimately, whilst 5G might be available commercially in 2019, realistically not everybody is going to suddenly switch to 5G; there will still be many customers on 4G."
Sprint used MWC to announce that it will be bringing 5G networks to Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston first, with the six cities to begin experiencing "5G-like capabilities" as of April.
The upgrades will begin with the rollout of Massive MIMO in LA, Chicago, and Dallas, with an "aggressive" expansion into additional markets later in the year.
As part of this, Sprint will deploy thousands of Massive MIMO radios from Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung, as well as 40,000 outdoor small cell solutions, 15,000 stand-mounted small cells, and 1 million Sprint Magic Boxes -- labelled the world's first wireless small cells -- to cell towers.
Sprint CTO John Saw told ZDNet that the carrier will be naming additional markets for its 5G launch in the coming months. Sprint chose its initial six due to their high traffic, he said, and the fact that the carrier holds at least 120MHz of 5G spectrum in those areas.
"Those are big markets. Massive MIMO by itself allows us to add up to 10 times more capacity than a regular LTE site, so you obviously want to put them where you have the most demand, and those are the biggest markets where we have the most customers and the most use," Saw told ZDNet.
"We sat down with partners like Nokia to figure out where do we have a critical mass of sites that we can upgrade, where we know we can move fast on. That's how we picked the first few markets.
"Ultimately, we're going to be naming more markets over the next few months ... we're showing up to this 5G game with I think more spectrum than our competitors."
T-Mobile announced that it will begin building out 5G across 30 cities this year, with Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, and Dallas to have the service by 2019.
In an interview with ZDNet, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray and 5G Americas president Chris Pearson said mobile carriers need more 5G help from the US government on both infrastructure regulations and spectrum availability.
"I think as an industry, we all realise a lot more spectrum is needed for 5G to ultimately succeed in the US market, and that's across all bands," Ray told ZDNet, pointing to the mmWave and 3.5GHz CBRS bands.
"The US has consumed most of the commercial spectrum pretty rapidly over recent years, and for 5G we need a lot more.
"It seems to take an interminable amount of time in the US to bring any spectrum to market."
Pearson said that in addition to making more spectrum available, the government must also work on reducing the barrier to deploying additional infrastructure.
Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm announced the Swedish networking giant's guide for how telecommunications carriers can maximise revenues during the transition to 5G, predicting that real-time automation has a revenue potential of $101 billion by 2026.
Enhanced video services came in second, with potential revenue of $96 billion, according to Ericsson, although Ekholm believes enhanced mobile broadband will be the first commercial deployment of 5G.
On net neutrality, Ekholm said that while Ericsson believes in non-discriminatory access to information and data, he added that "not all traffic is created equal" -- and that once critical applications such as remote surgery are being performed over 5G, they should be given priority over other traffic.
The Ericsson CEO also said governments should help enable 5G by making new spectrum available and providing a "stable regulatory environment" and faster permitting processes.
Intel announced that it will partner with Japanese telecommunications carrier NTT DoCoMo on providing 5G coverage and technology for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Some of the applications that can be expected at Tokyo 2020 according to Intel include 360-degree 8K video streams with real-time broadcasts, including VR applications; drones kitted out with HD cameras; smart city sensors and connected cars, which will enable better transport options throughout Tokyo; and access to data and analytics during Olympic training for athletes.
"As we look to 2020, Intel is excited to unveil today our collaboration with NTT DoCoMo, a National Partner of Tokyo 2020, to provide 5G technology for the next Olympic Games. Intel hopes to establish what's expected to be the world's largest 5G commercial network," Intel SVP and chief strategy officer Aicha Evans said.
The Tokyo 2020 5G network will also provide a glimpse into technology prototypes from the 2022-23 era, Intel said.
With US carrier AT&T committing to roll out 5G networks in 12 markets by the end of this year, it is definitely a frontrunner. SVP of Wireless Network Architecture and Design Igal Elbaz told ZDNet this week that this is partially due to its focus on edge computing and network virtualisation.
"We are very uniquely positioned because of our experience in SDN, and because of what we are doing in 5G, and because of what we are doing in edge," he told ZDNet at MWC.
Also: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (Free PDF)
"And you're seeing in all three dimensions, we're very active in each one of them; we believe that we have a very unique not just opportunity but an advantage in terms of how we think about the network and how we should deploy it."
Elbaz also pointed towards AT&T's acquisition of FiberTower earlier this month, saying the mmWave spectrum gained as a result "puts us where we need to be". Its focus on not only taking part in but also pushing 5G standards forward while trialling the technology has also put it in a prime position for deployment, he added.
"This is why we think we could be first -- it's because we're very active in the standards, besides we've done a lot of trials in '16 and '17. We're very active in the standards, we believe that's the right way to do it, in fact we've expedited them," he told ZDNet.
AT&T has yet to announce what vendors it's working with, or the remaining nine cities to gain 5G by the end of the year, with Elbaz saying more information on this will be provided in the next month.
Huawei and Intel are using MWC to conduct the world's first 5G New Radio (5G NR) over-the-air interoperability public demonstration using the new 3GPP 5G NR non-standalone (NSA) standards set at the end of last year.
"It will be a fully compliant connection, and that's important because since the standard was just voted on in December, obviously there's only so much time to be able to develop a solution that can support and be fully compliant to every feature in the specifications," Intel GM of 5G Advanced Technologies Rob Topol told media.
Huawei had announced partnering with Intel on interoperability trials based on 3GPP standards back in September.
Huawei Australia's new CEO also praised the Australian government's 5G working group, saying the Chinese networking giant is wanting to push more discussions with government.
"I do see the government as also more and more open to discuss with industry, the vendors," new chief executive George Huang said.
"The government set up a 5G working group last year, I think that's a very good initiative because you know 5G is not only a product or a technology, it is an ecosystem. It really requires the vendors, the customers, operators, industries to work together to make that happen.
"So I do see a very good initiative from the government, and Huawei are also very happy to work with the government. We are quite open to discuss anything with the government."
During MWC, Huang told ZDNet in an interview that Huawei will be pushing into "many industries" to enable their digital transformation, including mining, oil, gas, agriculture, and transportation.
Samsung announced at MWC that its complete commercial fixed-wireless access (FWA) 5G solution has become the first globally to receive approval by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The end-to-end 5G FWA solution operates over the mmWave band, and includes commercial indoor and outdoor 5G home routers and CPE; 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) involving a radio access unit and virtualised RAN (vRAN); a next-generation core; and artificial intelligence-powered 3D radio frequency planning services and tools.
The equipment and solutions received FCC approval last week thanks to what Samsung said was "close collaboration with the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology".
"Since the beginning of our 5G research in 2012, Samsung stood firm among industry players to trust in the potentials of the millimetre-wave spectrum," Samsung Electronics president and head of Networks Youngky Kim said on Monday afternoon.
"Our efforts towards advancing this technology will see the light this year, making 5G a reality and opening up new territories' possibilities for consumers, operators, and enterprises."
Huawei and BT announced extending their 5G partnership to conduct live trials of 5G NR and CPE across mobile carrier EE.
"The aim is to test real-life 5G performance in a range of environments in preparation for commercial launch," Huawei said.
"Our 5G research has been hugely promising, and this partnership with Huawei will turn that research into reality," BT CTIO Howard Watson said.
"The EE network is already the UK leader for speed and coverage, and with the weight of BT's R&D and partnerships we can ensure that leadership continues with the introduction a world-class 5G experience."
Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to MWC in Barcelona as a guest of Huawei
MWC 2018 5G Coverage