By Emeka Aginam

…as MTN, Ericsson begin first 5G customer trial deployment in S/Africa

Industry body, GSMA has warned that the rollout of 5G will be at risk if operators do not get timely access to the right spectrum. This is just as it called on governments to strongly support the sector’s needs over the next year.

The GSM Association is a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide.

This is even MTN South Africa in partnership with  Ericsson   have announced the first 5G customer trial deployment in South Africa starting with a fixed wireless access site at technology company Netstar’s headquarters in Midrand.

The field deployment in Midrand, situated between Johannesburg and Tshwane (Pretoria), is part of Ericsson’s continuing efforts to deliver end-to-end 5G capabilities to support MTN South Africa’s growth as well as 5G and enterprise ambitions. With this development, MTN is planning to test other 5G use cases.

5G is the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications. It succeeds the 4G, 3G and 2G systems. 5G performance targets high data rate, reduced latency, energy saving, cost reduction, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity.

The first phase of 5G specifications in release-15 is expected to be completed by March 2019, to accommodate the early commercial deployment.

The second phase in release-16 is due completed by March 2020, for submission to the ITU as a candidate of IMT-2020 technology.

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GSMA  in its latest report highlighted a growing need for governments, regulators and the industry to work together to deliver widespread coverage of the new technology, as the race to launch 5G services intensifies with one year to go until the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019,  WRC-19.

The WRC conferences, held every three-to-four years, are used to review and possibly revise global spectrum regulations.

Key focuses

In its GSMA Public Policy Position on 5G Spectrum report, the GSMA highlighted several key considerations for governments and regulators including: the need for wider frequency bands to support higher speeds and increased traffic volumes; and the need for 5G spectrum to cover three key frequency ranges to deliver widespread coverage and support all use cases.

On the first point, the GSMA said regulators which make 80MHz to 100MHz of spectrum available per operator in prime 5G mid-bands and around 1GHz per operator in mmWave bands “will support the very fastest 5G services”.

Similarly, For rural, urban, suburban and IoT services, GSMA said sub-1GHz spectrum should be used to extend high-speed 5G mobile broadband coverage, while spectrum from 1GHz to 6GHz would  offer a good mix of coverage and capacity for 5G. Spectrum above 6GHz can be used for services such as high-speed broadband.

At WRC-19, the GSMA added it was essential for governments to support the 26GHz, 40GHz (37GHz to43.5GHz) and 66GHz to 71GHz bands with a sufficient amount of harmonised 5G spectrum “critical to enabling the fastest 5G speeds, low-cost devices and international roaming, and minimising cross border interference”

Inflated spectrum prices

Governments, the industry body said should avoid inflating 5G spectrum prices, and avoid setting aside spectrum for verticals in key bands where the Association said sharing approaches such as leasing “are better options where vertical industries require access to spectrum”.

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Speaking on this development, Brett Tarnutzer, head of spectrum at the GSMA said operators urgently need more spectrum, with the future of 5G heavily dependent on the decisions governments “are making in the next year as we head into WRC-19”.

“There is a real opportunity for innovation from 5G, but this hinges on governments focusing on making enough spectrum available, not maximising auction revenues for short term gains.”

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