The 3rd Generation Partnership Project completed the first standalone 5G New Radio standard earlier this week, having said the milestone brings the industry one step closer toward a full-fledged wireless revolution. The development comes just under half a year after the consortium finalized the premier non-standalone 5G NR specification as part of its Release 15 specification, with the difference between the two being that the new configuration isn't based on any existing 4G LTE infrastructure and can be deployed on its own.
Telecom giants are still expected to prioritize non-standalone deployment in major metropolitan areas where 4G LTE networks are already plentiful but the completion of the standalone standard also allows them to eventually offer consistent coverage even in areas where no contemporary networks exist, thus lowering buildout costs. Officially announced on Thursday, the milestone is a result of a large-scale collaboration between over 600 industry players ranging from network operators and telecom equipment makers to chip manufacturers and smartphone companies. Despite the historic achievement, many industry analysts are quick to point out that the work on the Release 15 specification, let alone 5G as a whole, is still far from over. The major challenge that remains is actually mass-producing new telecom hardware compliant with the new standard, as well as modems, antennas, smartphones, and other electronics that can actually communicate with such networks before deployment can even begin.
Experimental 5G buildouts in the United States will start in the second half of the year, with both Verizon and AT&T pledging to offer next-generation coverage in limited areas in the coming months. T-Mobile and Sprint will be following suit early next year, with their deployment efforts being likely to accelerate if and when they're allowed to merge. All four national carriers in the U.S. promised to offer country-wide coverage by 2020, whereas first 5G-enabled Android smartphones are set to be released stateside in the first half of 2019.