This month’s wires were dominated by discussions around the adoption and implementation of 5G. Meeting the new wireless standards will support various deliverables for different providers – from the roll out of mobile broadband to the wide-scale facilitation of IoT. There are still many challenges to overcome: deploying standalone 5G networks that are fully independent from 4G architecture, leveraging new higher frequency bands and unlicensed spectrum, and integrating new technologies, such as small cells. One of the key challenges will be determining the transport medium that will allow 5G standards to be met. Some believe that 5G wireless networks will have to rely heavily on fiber backhaul, while others are exploring how millimeter wave (mmWave) could be used in lieu of expensive deployments. There have also been discussions exploring how shared small cells infrastructure used on the 3.5 GHz spectrum could support multiple providers’ 5G ambitions from a single cell simultaneously. Transport mechanisms are not the only technologies in play. Organizations are also experimenting with virtual tools, particularly AI and advanced analytics to expedite 5G adoption. While the industry strives to bring 5G to fruition, advanced LTE networks are expected to offer increasingly ultra-fast speeds on top of which applications could be built and easily transitioned to 5G upon its availability.

Carriers are starting to test 5G technologies, millimeter wave systems in particular, assessing their efficiency and costs. AT&T will be trialing 5G services operating at 28 GHz in Texas, Michigan and Indiana over the following 18 months. Some of AT&T’s tests will involve streaming DirectTV service over a fixed 5G connection. Verizon, in efforts to construct a mobile alternative to cable services, is trialing fixed wireless 5G in 11 markets across the county. The network giant provided details specifically on tests in Ann Arbor, Michigan in conjunction with infrastructure partners, Cisco and Samsung. T-Mobile boldly proclaimed that it will have 5G up and running nationwide by 2020. Sprint came out with an even more aggressive claim that it will roll out 5G services by 2019, ahead of the majority of industry predictions on when we’ll see any real deployments materialize. Network operators are not the only entities trialing 5G tech; Apple has received approval from the FCC to test high band frequencies between its Cupertino and Milpitas, California facilities.

As the major telecom players work their way to a 5G reality, M&A activity and speculation in the space hasn’t slowed down. Shortly after selling several of its data centers to Equinix, Verizon shed its hosting and cloud business to IBM, showing it’s truly doubling down on its wireless focus. The telco giant also purportedly offered Charter Communications a $100M+ takeover bid, likely in response to AT&T’s pickup of Time Warner, but the cable company rejected Verizon’s offer. The rumors surrounding a possible T-Mobile and Sprint merger to better compete against larger rivals AT&T and Verizon are heating up again too. Wells Fargo predicts if this were to happen, T-Mobile and its parent Deutsche Telekom would acquire Sprint from its owner, Softbank, rather than the other way around – reversing its prediction from late last year. One thing is certain – in the face of evolving mobile technology, each of the major carriers know they need to transform by acquiring content, larger footprints, and/or embracing IoT.

That’s all for now. Don’t forget to stay tuned for up-to-date news and views from the Vertix team. Until next month…