Verizon hopes to launch standards-based 5G this year

Verizon's plan to launch 5G fixed wireless using prestandard equipment has gotten its share of criticism from competitors, but now the critics may need to start eating their words. This week, Verizon said the 5G fixed wireless networks it launches this year may incorporate standards-based as well as prestandard equipment. 

Initially, Verizon said its first 5G networks would use the prestandard version of 5G it developed through its 5G Technology Forum, before the 3GPP 5G standard was set. Now the carrier is saying that this year's 5G launch may not rely entirely on prestandard 5G, but could also incorporate standards-compliant 5G equipment.

According to Verizon's Nicola Palmer, the company's chief network engineering officer, some of the carrier's first 5G cities could use a mix of 5GTF and 5G NR. 5GTF is the prestandard 5G that Verizon worked on with partners Ericsson, Intel, LG, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung and Cisco, in an effort to get a lead in launching next-generation wireless networks. 5G NR is the industry standard ratified by 3GPP late last year, and Verizon says that much of its 5GTF work ultimately became part of the standard.

Now, vendors are racing to bring 5G NR equipment to market, and Palmer hopes some of it will be ready this year. Verizon plans to launch fixed wireless service based on 5G in four U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Sacramento and two others that it has identified but has not yet named. The carrier has said that the Sacramento deployment will rely on nonstandard equipment which will need to be upgraded or replaced in order to become standards compliant down the road. But the other three cities have a chance at standards-based 5G this year, Palmer said. 

Verizon tested its prestandard 5G in 11 U.S. cities, one of which was Sacramento. Los Angeles, however, was not a test site for 5GTF, and Palmer said looking at the list of those 11 test cities is not a good way to predict which cities will be first to get Verizon's real 5G service. She said the test cities were chosen because they offered a good mix of topographies and gave field technicians a varied set of opportunities to "get their hands dirty."

Verizon is not the only carrier that has used prestandard 5G equipment while waiting for the real thing to be ready. AT&T said this week that it plans to use prestandard equipment to stream next month's U.S. Open Championship in partnership with Fox Sports, Ericsson and Intel.