Everyone in the industry is excited about 5G, and few companies more so than Verizon.
But the company recently came under fire amid accusations it was overhyping the reality of the technology today. According to Verizon’s Director of Network Infrastructure Planning Sanyogita Shamsunder, though, all that hype is based in very real work that the carrier is currently doing.
Shamsunder said Verizon has honed in on millimeter wave as the technology that will carry it into the 5G future but added that the coming network roll out will be different from those seen in the past.
“Going from 4G to 5G is going to be a little bit different [than past network technology evolutions],” Shamsunder said. “Because of how millimeter wave operates it is not going to be nationwide on day one, clearly.”
Because the millimeter wave frequencies don’t propagate as far as lower band frequencies, Verizon will continue to rely on its 4G network as 5G progressively rolls out, Shamsunder said. And the carrier is already looking to 5G with its 4G densification plan, she said.
“I think we’ve been very open about our 4G densification plan and that’s directionally aligned with where we will go with 5G,” she said. “What we need for 5G we would already be doing on 4G in major cities to add capacity and so on.”
Based on the testing that Verizon has already done, though, Shamsunder said the carrier is confident it can build a viable 5G network using millimeter wave and other technologies like massive MIMO and beamforming.
“We’ve seen and been very vocal about it and public about it that our partners have developed these technologies, we have tested them and these are essentially the building blocks of 5G,” Shamsunder said. “We feel confident that the building blocks are working well to our satisfaction and that this is a practical and deployable technology.”
Though trials are already under way, Shamsunder said Verizon’s recent deal with XO Communications to lease 28 GHz spectrum will give it more flexibility to test in multiple markets without having to get temporary permits to gain access to that spectrum.
Shamsunder said there’s so much enthusiasm around millimeter wave technology because of the large amount of available spectrum in those bands. Shamsunder also said it’s incredible to see technologies she studied in graduate school finally becoming a reality.
“We’re talking about each channel being 100 MHz wide, while in the low bands we have to cobble up four bands to get anywhere close to 100 MHz,” Shamsunder said. “So the idea of deploying broad bands and many more antenna in a very small footprint is very exciting. That technology – I don’t want to date myself, but we were working on this stuff in academia and it’s now becoming real. It’s something very exciting.”
Shamsunder echoed previous comments from Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam that the carrier is on track to roll out initial use cases of 5G in the 2017 and 2018 timeframe, similarly noting that 5G won’t be mobile right away. The first 5G use cases, she said, will be centered on fixed wireless.
Shamsunder declined to go into detail about Verizon’s fixed 5G pilots, but said the carrier will conduct tests across different types of geography in several locations to give it confidence the technology will work across a broad variety of markets.