Some responses to an audience member's questions at the recent Brooklyn 5G Summit 2017 appear to indicate that telecom industry leaders are optimistic about meeting the December 2017 deadline for some 5G standards. The audience member raised concerns about whether some of the challenges still facing 3GPP members - including those members of the panel - could be overcome within the relatively short timeframe. Although that panel included Deutsche Telekom, NTT DoCoMo, and KT, the strongest responses by far came from Intel and AT&T.
Speaking for AT&T, Dave Wolter, the company's assistant VP in Radio Technology & Architecture began by bringing up the point that there are always concerns. Wolter continued on to say that the company is facing those by engaging with vendors and even with other service providers - citing that 22 companies signed on to the new deadline and that the "feeling is it can get done." Moreover, Wolter said that he has to "trust that they're going to get there," and that AT&T will be continuing testing and making adjustments as needed to make sure that the deadline is met. Wolter's statements were followed by remarks from Ken Stewart, a senior fellow at Intel. According to Stewart, the radio performance group of the 3GPP (RAN 4) is going to bear the biggest burden since they are responsible for defining so many of the fundamental performance requirements of the hardware aspects of 5G. Stewart went so far as to dub the amount of work still needing to be conducted by RAN 4 as "extraordinary." He went on to say that "It will be a very significant task, but with pragmatism, it’s just about achievable."
The standards in question include those for Non-Stand Alone (NSA) and 5G New Radio (NR) technologies, with the deadline having only been accelerated and set for December as of last month. AT&T will be leaning heavily on NSA since it already has a lot of 4G deployed and, with NSA, 4G forms a large portion of the 5G backbone. However, while AT&T played a big role in getting the standards for next-gen networks finalized, it was hardly the only carrier to accept the accelerated timeline. Each of the big 4 U.S. mobile service providers has already made tentative promises about when they plan to deliver 5G to customers. That gives each a decent level of motivation. As comments from industry leaders continue to remind everybody, if the accelerated timeline is adhered to, those promises should be well within reach despite the challenges.