Published: 21/02/2018
Author: Greg Collins

Originally published in FierceWireless in February 2018 by Monica Alleven

Analysts expect plenty of news to flow from chipmakers, infrastructure suppliers and operators about their plans for 5G, tempered only by the fact that real 5G smartphones won’t come to market until 2019.

Ericsson promises to “shake things up a bit,” focusing not only on “why” and “what,” but especially on “how.” Nokia’s themes include digital health, digital life, digital city, digital enterprise, digital service provider and finally, the “Future X” network.

While both vendors are saving some news for the last week of the month, they’ve already announced new 5G offerings ahead of the show. Ericsson launched its 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) commercial software, based on the recently approved first 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) standard, and introduced enhancements to its distributed cloud solution.

Nokia has said it will showcase its 5G portfolio at Mobile World Congress, including its 5G Future X for “unprecedented” baseband performance thanks to its ReefShark chipset. It’s also going to show automation using open machine learning technology that delivers Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) savings of up to 30%.

Huawei used its traditional pre-Mobile World Congress media briefing to outline its primary focus for the show, which includes 5G and artificial intelligence (AI). It will also use the show to release a full series of scenario-based Massive MIMO AAU (MM AAU) products, accommodating various 5G deployment scenarios and making operators’ 4G networks ready for 5G.

Greg Collins, founder and lead analyst at Exact Ventures, expects that all the major infrastructure vendors will be pushing 5G from a radio perspective and emphasizing that what they’re shipping today is software upgradeable to 5G.

“I think that will be a big push, not only on the radio side but on the core networking side as well,” he said. “They really don’t want 5G out there prompting folks to delay what their investment plans are, but continue to invest with the knowledge and confidence that what they get today will be upgrade-able rather easily to 5G as the standards get more solidified” and trials occur at scale.

The 5G theme expands to Samsung as well, as it seeks to use 5G as a springboard into a greater presence in the U.S. infrastructure market, among other areas. Samsung recently supplied a pre-commercial 5G end-to-end system for Verizon in the U.S. and KT in South Korea to conduct a 5G video call during the Super Bowl.

Everyone in the industry is realizing that for 5G, the key will be about how to expand the use cases, and they will not be traditional use cases, said Woojune Kim, SVP of product and strategy for the Samsung Networks division at Samsung Electronics.

This year’s Mobile World Congress, in particular, will be a pivotal time. “We also have to get away from showcase demos and trials to more realistic use cases that can drive business and can drive revenue growth,” said Kim. “I think everyone will have a slightly different spin and different take on it. That will be the interesting part of this Mobile World Congress because I think in some ways this will be a new adventure for everyone.”

For years, it’s been all about phones, which were relatively easy to figure out. Now, it’s a whole new ball game.

“Now everyone is going to have to sort of place their bets on what’s going to be the next big thing,” he said. “A lot of the bets that are placed here this year will have a lot of long-term effects over the next couple of years.”