Executives from a host of leading companies and industry groups told MWC Barcelona 2022 the telecoms industry had reached a tipping point in terms of mmWave 5G, which they predicted was poised for increased adoption this year.

During a roundtable discussion, GSMA head of network Henry Calvert  stated mmWave 5G will supercharge next-generation services and applications.

Qualcomm VP of business development Philippe Poggianti explained operators are looking at the full range of spectrum for 5G services and applications: low-band for large coverage areas; mid-band for extra capacity; and mmWave for targeted areas including sports stadiums, factories or public areas.

Advantages of mmWave include carrying large amounts of data at high speeds with low latency. It employs higher-frequency radio bands ranging from 24GHz to 40GHz.

Last month, US National Football League official 5G partner Verizon reported peak data rates of 3.89Gb/s for its subscribers in the stadium hosting the latest Super Bowl event. The operator employed a mix of 28GHz and 39GHz mmWave spectrum along with mid-band CBRS 3.5GHz and C-band 3.7GHz.

During the roundtable, Verizon VP of device technology Brian Mecum explained it had installed more than 150 mmWave antennas in the sports ground to provide coverage of the entire field.

Verizon was the first operator to get onboard the 5G mmWave train, in 2019, and has held a leading position ever since.

It is using mmWave and C-band for its ultra-wideband 5G service and last week announced plans to cover 175 million people with the service by the end of this year, a year ahead of its original target.

In 2021, Japan became the first country where all major operators had deployed commercial mmWave 5G services, while Australian operator Telstra offers compatible hotspots in a cricket ground.

Poggianti stated 150 mmWave devices including handsets and laptops from 50 different vendors are either available or in the process of being launched.

He predicted one-in-five smartphones will be compatible by 2023.

Global expansion
The Qualcomm executive was bullish future spectrum auctions in Spain, the UK and France would spur adoption of mmWave 5G in Europe.

Brazil conducted a multiband auction in November 2021 which included 26GHz of mmWave, while India’s government plans a 5G spectrum auction in April or May.

Cheong Hai Thoo, VP of mobile network engineering at Singtel, expects mmWave deployments for enterprise to be more targeted at specific use cases including uploading HD video.

“This is where mmWave will come in very handy.”

“We are less worried about the end device. We think the enterprise will be able to bring in very customised devices to support mmWave.”

Singtel is conducting a trial of mmWave with the Singaporean government and an airport. Cheong said the first commercial deployments of the frequency began earlier this year in wearable tech factories.

Mecum said while the consumer side of mmWave is what gets people excited when he speaks at industry events, Verizon is also using it in manufacturing, including in a US factory producing radios for the spectrum.

“There’s absolutely quite a bit that we’re doing with mmWave for businesses by using private networks, as well as public 5G, across the board.”