Verizon looking to rapidly extend 5G beyond fixed wireless

Verizon just launched what it’s described as the first 5G commercial network in the world, but it’s also looking to move rapidly beyond fixed wireless to other 5G opportunities—including to more futuristic things like autonomous vehicles and drones enabled by 5G mobility.

At the request of FCC staff, Verizon executives met with FCC officials just prior to Verizon’s Oct. 1 5G launch in parts of Houston, Los Angeles, Indianapolis and Sacramento, California. In the meeting (PDF), Verizon executives once again noted the need for low-, mid- and high-band spectrum and encouraged the commission to continue its work to make more spectrum available for 5G. The meeting was related to T-Mobile’s application to combine with Sprint, although Verizon didn't take an official position on that transaction.

Looking forward, Verizon noted that with 3GPP’s Release 15 completed in June 2018, the next big step in the standards process is the completion of Release 16, which is scheduled to be completed in December 2019. Release 16 will contain a complete 5G system description enabling end-to-end architecture for 5G in 2020.

Release 16 also includes improved positioning, enhanced mobility support, Massive Machine-type communications, additional ultra-reliable/low latency use cases (uRLCC) and more.

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Under the banner “5G Opportunities,” Verizon lists fixed wireless and its “quad play” capabilities, in addition to mobile 5G broadband to enable new consumer AR/VR apps and the 5G-enabled cloud, where intelligent edge/MEC and industrial automation come into play.

Prior to its commercial launch, Verizon started its 5G work through the Verizon 5G Tech Forum and successfully completed fixed wireless trials in 11 markets using pre-standard equipment. In the trials, Verizon was able to reach participants as far as 2,000 feet away from the radio and get as high as the 19th floor of a building.

They also reported success with non-line-of-sight use cases and were able to achieve peak data rates over 1 Gbps, although that’s not what it’s advertising for its early 5G customers. Customers are told to expect typical network speeds around 300 Mbps and, depending on location, peak speeds of nearly 1 Gig with no data caps.

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At Mobile World Congress Americas last month, Verizon Chief Network Officer Nicola Palmer discussed how her team took their technology to those 11 markets, where they deployed at 28 GHz and “tested the heck out of it.” In the end, everything ended up performing better than expected, and that gave them the confidence to lead with the home broadband product.

Clearly, Verizon is aware that one of its big advantages is having access to millimeter wave spectrum—and a lot of it, not just at 28 GHz but also at 39 GHz. “We think that the use cases and the promise and the innovation that will happen with 5G will be primarily driven by that massive bandwidth. Latency as well, but that bandwidth is a big differentiator,” Palmer said.