Verizon on track to launch 5G broadband offering in 2018: Palmer

DALLAS—Verizon shared a few tidbits about what it’s learned from millimeter wave trials, which it has been studying in 11 markets across the country, and it’s looking better than originally expected when it comes to propagation and range.

Verizon Chief Network Officer Nicola Palmer noted that the operator has been conducting trials with nonpaying customers—but real people, nonetheless—in 11 markets, including Dallas. The tests are using 28 GHz spectrum and 120+ nodes, she said during the opening keynote today here at the FierceWireless Next-Gen Wireless Networks Summit

Each location offers a unique set of parameters and diversity, including diversity of suppliers, topology, geography, building/construction materials and demographics. There are places with lots of trees and others with a lot of cactus, all purposely chosen so that they could test in different environments.

“What we’ve learned from these trials is simply invaluable,” she said. “We believe this makes up the largest 5G test bed” in the country and possibly the world.  

First, “millimeter wave propagates a little better than we thought,” in terms of line of sight as well as in terms of elevation, she said. For example, they assumed they could get to the 6th floor of an apartment or office building, but tests are showing they are able to get up as high as the 19th floor.

They’re also seeing speeds in and above the 1 gigabit-per-second range beyond 2,000 feet. The industry had been expecting maybe around 500 or 600 feet or so, and “it doesn’t happen everywhere all the time, but we’ve seen good results in the 2,000 feet range,” she said.

In addition, they’re getting better penetration through various wall materials; there’s been real innovative solutions emerging to get signals into homes, she said. Low E glass has been a known issue, and some great plug-and-play solutions are being developed to overcome that problem.

In terms of latency, “we’re under 10 milliseconds,” she said, and “we expect that to get lower."

By comparison, LTE networks are getting 50 milliseconds or so. “This is only going to get better as we continue to optimize,” she said.

Regarding density, propagation modeling and trial results are showing that the densest cities, with very little augmentation, can already provide good street-level coverage at 28 GHz on existing infrastructure. “This is a little different than we thought,” Palmer said, and it’s not perfect and it’s not everywhere, but in the cities where it has the density it aspires to, street-level coverage appears to be pretty good. That’s good news considering how difficult it can be to get permits for deploying new gear in cities.

Verizon plans to start testing 5G mobility in 2018. It did some initial 5G mobility testing at the Indy 500 in May, when a driver used augmented reality to drive around the track while the windshield was blacked out. The driver used the augmented reality video to “see” where to drive around the track.

RELATED: Verizon CFO: Mobile 5G ‘not a 2018 activity’

“We are on track to launch a 5G broadband offering in 2018” in several cities, she said, reiterating plans to launch a fixed wireless broadband offering during the course of 2018.

She also ticked off the many awards that Verizon has garnered, attesting to its pride in network quality, something competitors like T-Mobile have been agitating about. Palmer did not call out any competitors by name, but she noted that Verizon has achieved a number of industry milestones over the past months, including achieving 953 Mbps in a real-world environment in Boca Raton, Florida, where “we threw the kitchen sink at it, admittedly,” using 4x4 MIMO, LAA, 4 carrier aggregation and 256 QAM.

RELATED: Verizon, Qualcomm, Ericsson hit 953 Mbps with commercial LAA system in Florida

The 27-year Verizon veteran also reiterated that 4G doesn’t go away; it lays the groundwork for 5G, and LTE will continue to be around for the foreseeable future. And she underscored how important it is to be partnering with others in the supply chain.

Verizon announced in October that it was getting together with Qualcomm Technologies and Novatel Wireless to collaborate on 5G New Radio (NR) millimeter-wave technology development and over-the-air field trials based on the 5G NR Release 15 specifications being developed by 3GPP.

The companies said they were going to initially focus on the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands and showcase how using advanced 5G NR technologies can achieve multigigabit-per-second data rates with mobility at significantly lower latencies than today’s networks.