At a meeting of the 3GPP, the organization responsible for defining future wireless standards, AT&T recently asked the organization members to push through an early version of the official 5G standard by December of 2017. Fearful that the standard presented would be woefully immature, the board members present, the most prominent and vocal of which was Verizon, voted the proposal soundly down. While a very early version of the standard is technically available, it mostly hinges on current wireless tech, and is less future-proof than a standard released more in line with the development of 5G technology would be. One would think that would be the end of it, but according to AT&T core director Brian Daly, AT&T is still looking at ways to get the measure passed.
While other carriers are doing testing of their own and watching the 3GPP closely for the release of the finished standalone and non-standalone versions of the first release candidate of the official 5G standard, AT&T is conducting all sorts of smaller-scale tests with a wider range of technology. For now, the focus seems to be on millimeter-wave spectrum, which is, in the simplest terms possible, spectrum that was once thought useless and sold for peanuts, but is actually quite suited to 5G, with the right network equipment and setup. With only the earliest standards to go off of, AT&T and hardware partners like Nokia and Ericsson seem to be weighing out their options by trying a large number of them.
The new iteration of the 5G standard is scheduled for release in June of 2018, which means that AT&T’s proposal would rob the 3GPP of a full six months of planning, research, and development time. A recent 5G trade show in the US saw AT&T joined in their desire for an early 5G release by Bell Canada, whose very own Javan Erfanian joined Daly on the stage to voice support for the move, saying that an earlier-defined 5G standard would get the ball rolling faster for chipmakers, who would be able to get to work earlier on developing 5G-capable chipsets. The main corporate strategist of Verizon, Alexander Khalin, reportedly had nothing to say about the proposal’s rearing its head a second time. In the end, the motion didn’t pick up much steam, but the fact that it is gaining support could mean a bit more pressure on the 3GPP as the proposed deadline draws ever closer.