Huawei says 5G goes commercial in 2020

Today, we attended a presentation made by Huawei to discuss 5G.  The company emphasized several interesting points:

  • 2020 is the year for commercial launch of 5G.  The company confirmed its understanding that Chinese operators will commercialize 5G in 2020.  It explained that in Korea, while there are trials planned in 2018/2019, this spectrum will be withdrawn, and then Korea will commercialize in 2020.  In Europe, commercialization will generally be in 2020.  Additionally, the company explained that it expects terminal chipsets will be available in 4Q19 or possibly 2Q19 and that smartphones will become available in 2020.
  • C-Band (3400-3600 Mhz) will be the first new spectrum used for 5G.  This is the only spectrum that Huawei believes is available in all regions of the world.  It also confirms that in China (a market for > 1 million base stations) this spectrum will be adopted.
  • Millimeter wave will be used for last mile broadband.  For various technical reasons, this high-frequency system will be useful for last mile broadband, not mobile terminals.
  • 700-2.0 Mhz should be used for the uplink connection.  Most handsets only transmit at 200 mW and therefore using lower frequency is better.  So, the company is promoting the use of ‘Decoupling,’ which will allow handsets to perform better for the upstream connection.  The downstream connection will be able to take advantage of the higher frequency C-Band.
  • The company has signed MOU’s with over 30 operators for 5G.  China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, TMobile, Telefonica, TeliaSonera, SingTel, Vodafone, Softbank, TIM and others are on this list

Generally, we agree that millimeter wave will be used for last mile – that’s the experience we had in the US market with LMDS and MMDS in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.  Additionally, many trials underway for ‘5G’ are for pre-standards last mile implementations.  There is a natural incentive for mobile wireless companies to want to enter the residential broadband business – it is a new source of revenue and in some cases represents a potential costs savings if the carrier also owns fixed assets which can be decommissioned after 5G last mile is deployed.