The consensus among speakers at the Global 5G Test Summit during Mobile World Congress was it is important to give other industries a taste of what’s coming with 5G so they can explore new usage models and applications.

Participants said early testing gives verticals the chance to understand the actual requirements of various applications.

Testing, of course, is needed to ensure full interoperability across the network as well as end-user devices. In addition to debugging issues on the technology side, it enables stakeholders to start working with governments on future regulations.

Despite approval of 5G standards not expected to be completed until 2020, 25 mobile operators have already announced they are lab testing 5G, demonstrating the wide support for the technology at this early stage.

The event highlighted global operators’ development strategies and plans on 5G testing and trials.

Wang Xiaoyun (pictured), GM of China Mobile’s department of technology and vice-chair of the IMT2020 Promotion Group, said besides developing a united 5G standard and pushing trials to validate the technologies, an important task is to establish the overall industry ecosystem.

She noted this is critical for bringing in vertical partners across many industries. The operator already has 98 partners in its 5G Innovation Centre.

China Mobile aims to launch phase two product validation trials in 2018 and to have a commercial launch in 2020, she said.

Roadmap emerging
Gordon Mansfield, VP of RAN and device design at AT&T, said the reason for early trials is to get feedback from users, both consumer and business, to validate the technology in various applications.

Magnus Ewerbring, Ericsson’s CTO for APAC, agreed, saying it wants to be educated about their industries to help them transform their businesses. He noted the industry “needs to keep up with the global momentum on 5G.”

Luke Ibbetson, director of Vodafone Group R&D, said the industry is starting to see a clear roadmap, which is encouraging. “We have to keep ourselves aligned to build scale as rapidly as possible, and resist any attempt at fragmentation, which will slow us down from reaching our goals.”

Regarding the actual deployment, Takehiro Nakamura (pictured, left), VP and GM of NTT Docomo’s 5G Lab, said it is discussing how to best deploy 5G, as it would be difficult to do a nationwide rollout in 2020. “We will deploy in areas where high performance is required, and of course around the Olympic facilities in 2020.”

It will gradually expand coverage after 2020, depending on the availability of handsets and access to spectrum bands. The operator will focus on enhanced mobile broadband in the first phase as its current LTE network is used for IoT services, and expects LTE-Advanced to be able to support massive machine-type communication services in the beginning.