September 2018 will be remembered as the first time the expression “6G” was identified as a project in a conference. Of course, as of now, 6G is far from being defined. Let’s say it is 5G made faster and better. Having a new buzzword is essentially a means for the industry to keep on selling new equipment to operator …. The project, “6Genesis — the 6G-Enabled Wireless Smart Society & Ecosystem,” is also a means for the university of Oulu, in Finland, to raise EUR 250 million to fuel its research on the future of communications, with a focus on the “implementation of 5G communication technology and the development of a possible 6G standard.”
Focusing on 5G, the GSMA is pushing the agenda of the industry by claiming mobile technologies and services generated 3.3% of GDP in Europe in 2017, which amounted to EUR 450 billion of economic value added and anticipating that thanks to 5G, this contribution will be greater than 4% in 2022. According to GSMA director general Mats Granryd, “5G networks in Europe are expected to provide coverage to almost three quarters of the region’s population by 2025 and Europe is set to become the world’s third-largest 5G market behind Asia-Pacific and North America at that point.”
5G is getting more concrete every day, with launch dates popping up from operators around the world. In the US, Verizon announced that residents in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento will be the first to gain access to the residential broadband service, called Verizon 5G Home by October 1st 2018; this service based on Verizon’s own proprietary 5G standard (5GTF) will be marketed for US$ 50 to US$70 (EUR 42.8 to 59.9) per month. Meanwhile, AT&T, in the US, announced cities including Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Raleigh and Waco will be having 5G networks by the end of 2018, using millimeter wave spectrum in the most densely populated areas.
China may be going to an even greater extent to launch 5G. According to Bloomberg, Chinese authorities are considering merging China Unicom and China Telecom, respectively #2 with 302 million subscribers and #3 with 282 million subscribers, in order to create an even larger player, that would still be second to China Mobile which has 906 million subscribers.
In the UK, EE has confirmed that it is to launch 5G mobile phone services across the UK in 2019, a full year ahead of many of its European neighbors. EE is planning to reuse the 3G spectrum it bought in 2004 to boost 4G availability on its networks, while building its 5G infrastructure.
In Italy, already five operators, Telecom Italia, Vodafone Italy, Wind Tre, Iliad and Fastweb, are participating in the government’s auction of 5G spectrum have submitted initial bids worth about EUR 2.48 billion. Already, Telecom Italia has declared a 5G first, stating it had switched on Europe’s first antenna compliant with the latest 3GPP specifications in San Marino.
In Finland, Telia has launched a pre-commercial network in Helsinki and is anticipating a “full-scale commercial operation possible in 2019.” Telia is partnering with Nokia for its 5G rollout.
Other European countries take a more cautious approach. The German government is planning a 5G license auction in 2019. However, in May 2018, Deutsche Telekom announced the deployment of its first 5G antennas in Berlin, based on non-standalone 3GPP standards.
France will have its 5G auction in 2019 and expects commercial deployments in 2020. However, 22 experimentations are already under way in various cities, with all major mobile network operators.
An interesting point is that 5G is an umbrella concept that encompasses multiple realities, from fixed line to mobile communication and also including IoT protocols. 5G includes eMBB, massive connectivity (IoT) and ultra-low latency. As of now, numerous players are announcing first real uses of 5G. The first one, considered by many operators is fixed wireless access services, while waiting for mobile handsets to be ready. In addition, OneWeb, a satellite manufacturing company, is planning to launch a series of satellites in order to reach in rural and remote areas and allowing speeds and latency comparable to fiber or cable.