Samsung took to the latest iteration of Mobile World Congress to showcase its 5G fixed wireless access technologies as part of what the company claims is the world's first commercial 5G FWA package. The United States Federal Communications Commission approved the new equipment last Friday, making Samsung's platform the first such solution to receive regulatory approval in the history of the telecom industry. The newly announced technologies were designed to leverage the millimeter-wave spectrum, i.e. bands in the frequency range starting at 30GHz. The equipment itself is expected to be used by Verizon later this year as the largest mobile service provider in the United States already awarded its first commercial 5G supply contract to Samsung.
The New York-based telecom giant is planning to start the rollout of its 5G FWA offerings in the second half of 2018 and has recently been trialing the equipment necessary for doing so in collaboration with Samsung. The commercial platform showcased at MWC 2018 spans all wireless product categories, from radio access units and a virtualized 5G RAN to 5G-ready routers, core, and software meant to facilitate the process of managing the next generation of wireless networks with the help of various artificial intelligence solutions. Samsung's equipment is advertised as highly versatile and scalable, thus being suitable for a broad range of 5G FWA use cases.
Some industry members remain skeptical about the potential of fixed wireless solutions to stay relevant in the long term, with a number of wireless carriers and analysts still not seeing the technology as being profitable in the long term due to the massive investments it would require before becoming a true broadband alternative on a significant scale. Verizon and multiple other telecom giants are still pursuing 5G FWA as a way to densify their networks in preparation for the "real" mobile networks of the future given how both standards can share some equipment and bands. In the U.S., Sprint and AT&T already signaled they won't be making FWA their 5G focus in the near future but haven't explicitly dismissed the possibility of eventually pursuing it. Large-scale 5G deployment is expected to start in early 2019 in the United States, Australia, South Korea, and Japan, whereas Europe should follow suit in 2020.