Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, other carriers and cable operators have begun testing new equipment to be among the firsts to launch 5G commercially in the U.S. and almost all operators agree that to do so, they may have to rely on millimeter-wave technologies as they can offer higher bandwidth and throughput. However, millimeter wave technologies can falter in densely populated areas where tall buildings and structures can cause obstructions and new methods like using smaller antennas, focused beams and making 5G work along with 4G signals will be the key for 5G to turn into a success.
Belal Hamzeh, director of network technologies with CableLabs, has stated that 28 GHz millimeter wave bands have a wide reach but may falter if they face obstructions from tall structures. However, the same can be resolved by using a large number of smaller cells to avoid loss of bandwidth in populated areas like Boston or New York. However, Steven Bye, CTO of C-Spire, has a different idea. He proposes that future 5G networks must run together with existing 3G and 4G standards to ensure that people do not face loss of coverage and are able to enjoy any of the frequency bands on offer. Bye added that LTE networks are still maturing and will become better in the years to come. In such a case, customers must be able to choose among a number of frequency bands while enjoying superior 5G speeds when they want to. Karri Kuoppamaki, VP, network technology development and strategy for T-Mobile, concurred with Steven Bye. "Operating 5G and 4G at the same time enables us to make best out of both and that is another illustration of how 5G is going to complement and extend LTE," he said.
Manish Jindal, head of technology and strategy development for Ericsson in North America, agrees with CableLabs on the use of beamforming and using more antennas to support smoother transmission of millimeter-wave bands. Millimeter waves correspond to radio band frequencies between 30 GHz and 300 GHz and are capable of transmitting several Gigabytes of data every second up to 40 times faster than 4G LTE can, which is exactly what 5G promises. Earlier this year, Google obtained permission from the FCC to perform terrestrial and airborne testing of millimeter wave bands between 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz range. The company may follow up such tests by testing higher frequency bands in the near future or may collaborate with carriers to perfect the technologies involved. The license for millimeter-wave spectrum is currently owned by XO Communications and Verizon is reportedly offering them $1.8 billion for the spectrum, but other firms like Dish are requesting the FCC to distribute the spectrum among all carriers and cable operators. The future of 5G thus rests with FCC and the sooner the issue is resolved, the sooner we will be able to enjoy the fruits of 5G on our handsets.