While most industry watchers are expecting to see telecom providers begin to roll out 5G communications technology sometime after 2020, Verizon is hoping to jump the queue. The country’s largest wireless service provider announced today that it plans to begin field-testing the technology as soon as next year.
The next generation of communications technology promises speeds up to 50 times faster than 4G LTE technology, the fastest mobile phone technology currently available. According to Verizon, next-generation devices would experience signal latency of just milliseconds. Widespread deployment of fifth-generation technology would also make it possible to handle an exponentially larger number of Internet-enabled devices, as is expected with the growth of the Internet of Things.
Verizon Forms Working Group
“Five G is no longer a dream of the distant future,” Roger Gurnani, executive vice president and chief information and technology architect for Verizon, said in a statement. “We feel a tremendous sense of urgency to push forward on 5G and mobilize the ecosystem by collaborating with industry leaders and developers to usher in a new generation of innovation.”
As Gurnani suggested, Verizon won’t be alone in its efforts. The company is teaming up with a number of technology companies to develop the tools required to make 5G a reality. Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm, and Samsung have all partnered with Verizon through the company’s 5G Technology Forum, which launched last month.
“When you’re planning a technological evolution at this scale it must be a collaboration of players in the ecosystem,” said Marcus Weldon, chief technology officer of Alcatel-Lucent and president of Bell Labs. “Having Verizon initiate this effort now, even as 4G LTE technology has so much headroom left, will no doubt add to the rich fabric of our digital lives for many years to come.”
Although the announcement indicates that Verizon hopes to take the lead in developing 5G systems, the current 4G technology that most of the country’s mobile phones run on is still less than a decade old. In many parts of the country, mobile phone carriers are still in the process of rolling out 4G infrastructure, indicating many people still use 3G networks. That likely means that it will still be several more years before 5G services come to market in any meaningful way.
Playing in the Sandbox
To drive 5G development, Verizon said it will be creating shared 5G network environments in San Francisco and Waltham, Mass. where other organizations will be able to collaborate to bring the next generation of communications technology to life.
The company did something similar seven years ago, when it first created the Verizon Innovation program to promote the growth and development of the 4G LTE ecosystem. Then, as now, Verizon developed multi-cell network “sandboxes,” allowing multiple companies to experiment with the technology.
If history repeats itself, Verizon’s decision to begin work on 5G networks next year could indicate that it will begin to deploy a commercial 5G network by 2019. The company began testing 4G in 2008, and made its first foray into commercial deployment in December 2010.