Moving your operations over to a new technology or standard is never easy, but sometimes it becomes necessary. Many a business owner likely let out a sigh when Microsoft said they’d be ending support for Windows XP and many a wireless carrier exec probably let out a sigh when Verizon announced they were to be the first out of the gate with 5G, meaning everybody else would have to join in soon to avoid being left behind. T-Mobile’s CFO, Braxton Carter, thinks that Verizon is making this move for a different, somewhat simpler reason; their current network is too congested to sufficiently continue to meet user demand.
With other carriers content to continue component testing for 5G, Verizon has vowed to be the first carrier to deploy it commercially, saying this may happen as early as next year. The kicker here is that the 5G standard has yet to be defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and likely won’t be defined until 2019 or 2020, after network conditions and tests have been examined in detail alongside new technology to power the new standard. Most carriers, including T-Mobile, are already conducting testing, but are saying that a deployment by 2020 is much more realistic. In fact, should Verizon’s 5G not match up to the IEEE standard, they may be forced to bring their equipment into compliance or face consumer accusations of rolling out “4.5G”, the same way many consumers pointed the finger at T-Mobile and cried “3.5G” when they rolled out HSPA+ while marketing it as “4G”. T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said of Verizon’s push, “Why are you pushing so quick that it’s going to end up costing you much more in the long run?”
According to Ray, the answer to that question is that Verizon is seeing “massive increases” in regards to customer data usage and their current network simply won’t be able to keep up with the surge in demand for much longer. This suggests that Verizon could be trying to patch up a hole with a less-than-perfect solution before a standard for 5G has even been reached. Verizon may be on the right track here, but there’s no way to know for certain until the IEEE rolls out an official 5G standard specification. If they are encouraged to play along with everybody else and deploy 5G later than 2017, this may give other carriers the time they need to catch up, flesh out their new networks and present a wider, faster or cheaper rollout than Verizon could. Whether Verizon will go through with their plans or not, it seems consumers are destined to see some sort of 5G much sooner than originally thought.