The major carriers in the U.S. each have developed strategies to deploy their 5G networks by 2018 at the earliest, and 2020 at the latest. Through press releases, personal statements, and third parties, the carriers have revealed their intentions to provide 5G mobile and fixed services nationwide.
Below I will elaborate on my findings. Due to the substantial amount of information I found on the topic, I have started each subsection with the terms |How|, |Vision|, or |Comment| to indicate the subject.
|How| Verizon showed its intention to work on 5G connectivity after it purchased XO Communications in preparation for a focus on fixed wireless and gigabit speeds. The company’s initial comments on rollouts occurred in November 2017. The ISP announced to the public that it would be the first to launch its wireless residential broadband services in a minimum of three U.S. markets with Sacramento leading the way and scheduled a launch date for the second half of 2018. Furthermore, the company used a press release to elaborate on the technology behind the network-to-be, explaining that it would rely not on copper or fiber optics, but on radio signals that would result in faster wireless speeds. The same year, Verizon tested its 5G residential applications in Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Seattle, Sacramento, and six other major cities. “Customer experience and Verizon’s confidence in new technology powered by millimeter-wave spectrum” are what the company claims the commercial launch is about. On top of these releases, Verizon disclosed through CES that it would begin limited-scale 2018 rollouts of 5G cellular services, and separately announced commercial service over 5G fixed wireless networks by the year’s end 2018; they revealed a partnership with Samsung as a hardware provider for the latter. However, they are first planning to offer 5G through hot spots called pucks at first due to phones being unavailable for the 5G network launch in 2018.
This year saw Verizon divulge more information regarding its 5G technology. The company officially acknowledged that it was working with Qualcomm and Ericsson to improve network speeds and connectivity via simultaneous multi-antenna technology. One test was conducted using the Nokia 5G network technology on a Qualcomm 5G NR prototype device, and another test succeeded in hosting a 5G video call between Minneapolis and Seoul.
|Vision| As I have thus far discussed, Verizon plans to launch its 5G services in major U.S. cities. According to their estimates, they are looking at a market size of 30 million homes throughout the nation to bring 5G residential broadband services to. Their strategy is to set up a strong framework for 5G services at launch in order to accelerate the technology’s deployment to the global stage. The executive VP and group president of Verizon Wireless, Ronan Dunne, believes that in the next two decades 5G technology will support 22 million jobs driven by industry digitization and will enable $12 trillion in global revenue.
|Comments| So far, the carrier has made few, but significant, comments regarding its position in 5G technology. One such example is the following statement from Verizon Chief Technology Architect Ed Chan, “We are encouraged to hear that other wireless providers are beginning to adopt our strategy toward unleashing the full potential of 5G mobile technology.” He would later add that Verizon has a “tremendous lead in executing on [their] 5G strategy.”
|How| AT&T made its first announcement on its 5G rollout plans at the beginning of 2018, in which they reported that their launch date would be at the end of 2018. In 2017, however, the company did reveal that it was in the process of determining the trial locations for the Project AirGig wireless gigabit internet service. Project AirGig itself was announced in September 2016, when it was introduced as an approach to multi-gigabit wireless internet that operated on antennas, which president of AT&T Labs and CTO Andrew Fuetsch said represents “a key invention in our 5G Evolution approach.” In January 2017, the company announced plans for a trial in Austin, Texas for DirectTV Now customers, with a specific focus on 4K video streaming, IoT deployment, and mobile video. The carrier also used CES to announce its limited-scale rollouts of 5G cellular services.
For the most part, AT&T remained quiet about the scope of its 5G mobile deployment. In fact, the company apparently decided to rebrand some of its late-stage LTE technologies as “5G Evolution” so that it could market its enhanced LTE services in 23 regions. Moreover, AT&T conducted fixed 5G tests in four U.S. cities, which relied on smaller cellular units to offer 5G to residences, small businesses, and educational facilities. The carrier announced in February that Waco, Dallas, and Atlanta would be the first cities to receive its 5G services, though one city will have to wait until 2019 for coverage and devices that users prefer. Additionally, AT&T signaled its intentions to be the first U.S. carrier to deploy 5G ready for mobile phones in twelve U.S. markets. Like Verizon, AT&T announced that it will first offer 5G through pucks, which CEO Randall Stephenson introduced during a company earnings call in 2018. The company also says that its mobile 5G service will be based on radio standards adopted by 3GPP.
|Vision| The carrier believes that Project AirGig will provide more rural areas (Source 5) with internet access. In a press release statement, Melissa Arnoldi, president of AT&T Technology and Operations, stated that they are racing to deploy mobile 5G (Source 6) in 2018. What’s more, the company has a vision of wall-to-wall 5G service for VR, vehicle A.I., TV applications (Source 7) and everything in between. Also, AT&T is planning to add to its selection (Source 8) in 2019 as it expects new devices from phone makers this year.
|Comments| So far, AT&T has challenged Verizon in being the first carrier (Source 20) to offer 5G mobile services to U.S. cities. The carrier has also committed to continuing work on fixed 5G solutions, which Verizon has lagged.
|How| Sprint made its announcement in 2017, informing that it was working with Softbank and Qualcomm to develop a 5G solution in the 2.5 GHz range. CEO Marcus Claure revealed the planned 2019 launch date during a conference call on quarterly earnings. Other than a late 2019 deployment date and a plan to implement a Massive MIMO solution in the 4G-to-5G problem, not much else has been announced by the carrier. Nonetheless, a salient point to note is that Massive MIMO is not 5G , rather it is a technology to bridge a gap. The antennas that Sprint plans to deploy should facilitate rollouts of gigabit-speed LTE and 5G networks, and a software update should suffice when its 5G network launches. Sprint acknowledge that it is relying heavily on Massive MIMO to carry its customers over to 5G. What is more, the carrier has partnered with Qualcomm and other device manufacturers to provide 5G mobile devices in the first half of 2019.
|Vision| Sprint wants to build the next generation’s network by targeting the first six cities for its Massive MIMO rollout plan. These cities are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. By the first half of 2019, the company wants to operate the first mobile 5G network, believing that this will position it at the forefront of innovation.
|Comments| The carrier expects its Massive MIMO solution will put it ahead of its competitors by being the first to offer a 5G mobile network.
|How| T-Mobile intends to use its newly acquired 600 MHz radio spectra to provide a 5G rollout by 2020. The company’s primary focus is to provide technology that works on smartphones instead of fixed routers. CTO Neville Ray claims that T-Mobile’s LTE Advanced work is comparable to 5G, thus they are leading the nation in LTE technology. Currently, T-Mobile is partnered with 3GPP, device manufacturers, and chip makers to deliver the first 5G handsets in 2019. Further, the carrier plans on re-purposing its 4G/LTE spectrum to 5G . Perhaps more important, T-Mobile announced “pathway to 5G”, a $6/year IoT plan debuting in 2018. As opposed to its competitors, this carrier is planning to start its launch with a fully-functioning 5G mobile service.
|Vision| T-Mobile wants to use low, mid, and high-band spectrums to build an outdoor and indoor 5G network. Moreover, the carrier plans to commence its 5G network in 2018 by working in 30 cities across the U.S. The company has committed to a launch date of 2019, so that it may offer nationwide coverage.
|Comments| CEO John Legere has referred to AT&T as “Dumb and Dumber” for attempting to deploy 5G networks via pucks. Neville Ray agrees with this assessment in a tweet stating, “Even with today’s news, still waiting on @ATT @Verizon to commit to a real 5G experience for mobile consumers. ”
In conclusion, each major carrier wants to be the first to provide a functioning 5G network in the U.S. Each carrier has developed their own strategy to achieve this, and have revealed so in recent years through press releases, personal statements, and third parties.