Verizon files to conduct 28 GHz market trials in 4 states

Verizon continues its march to 5G, with plans to deploy a prestandard fixed wireless solution in the first quarter of 2017, and it’s seeking permission from the FCC to conduct market trials at 28 GHz in four states next year.

First spotted by wireless industry consultant Steve Crowley, who tweeted about it Tuesday, the operator filed applications with the FCC for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to conduct market trials in parts of Texas, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Michigan from Jan. 2 to June 2, 2017.

While supplying the obligatory technical parameters, the applications said little about the trials other than they will consist of fixed base stations and mobile terminals in the 28 GHz band, with equipment supplied by various manufacturers.

“The fixed base stations and mobile terminals will employ directional, beamforming antennas pointing north, and any antennas pointing south, southwest, or southeast will have a maximum antenna elevation of 0 degree or below from the horizon,” the applications stated.

5G was a topic that came up during a meeting with analysts and senior Verizon Communications leadership, including CEO Lowell McAdam, this week as well. In a research note Tuesday, Jefferies analyst Mike McCormack noted that while a prestandard for 5G is expected in 2018, with 3GPP-compliant deployments likely in 2019, Verizon nevertheless anticipates deploying a prestandard fixed wireless solution in 2017. The company is looking at all spectrum, including 28 GHz—Verizon has a lease agreement with XO Communications at this frequency—as well as sub-6 GHz. The FCC approved Verizon’s acquisition of certain XO assets last month.

“Given the focus on 5G, it is no surprise that small cell spending is expected to rise,” the Jefferies analyst wrote. “Management noted additional capacity benefits from carrier aggregation, MIMO technology, the re-farming of underutilized spectrum (850MHz) as well as the use of unlicensed spectrum.”

Sprint senior level executives in New York this week also gave analysts and the media a peak at what they’re doing to improve their network, including carrier aggregation, MIMO and a new standard that was approved by the 3GPP on Dec. 6: High Performance User Equipment (HPUE). Sprint CTO John Saw said the HPUE technology is potentially a game changer because it finally allows Sprint to derive the benefits of mid-band spectrum in terms of coverage as well as the benefits of capacity that can only be achieved through high-band spectrum. Sprint’s management is optimistic that its trove of 2.5 GHz spectrum can be leveraged for 5G, including backhaul.

RELATED: Sprint unveils HPUE to optimize its 2.5 GHz network coverage

Last week, AT&T announced that it had launched what it believes is the first U.S. 5G business customer trial, using millimeter wave technology to power a 5G network experience in one of Intel’s offices in Austin, Texas. The operator already did a public 5G demo with Ericsson to stream 4K HD video, real-time camera feeds and speeds of nearly 14 gigabits per second, and now it’s taking that work into the field to see how it works with a real-world business customer.

Of course, T-Mobile US also is working with Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung on early trials, but in sync with its "uncarrier" strategy, CTO Neville Ray has said he's mostly disappointed in the “yawn” of 5G descriptions coming from the likes of Verizon and AT&T, and he’d rather focus on completely transforming the mobile internet rather than talking about connected refrigerators or home broadband cable replacements. T-Mobile acquired high-band spectrum when it bought Metro PCS in 2012.