China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator, appears to be gearing up to launch 5G services in 2019 rather than the 2020 target outlined by most operators in the country so far.

The operator selected Viavi Solutions to provide test and measurement hardware and software covering development of slicing packet network (SPN) technology with a Flexible Ethernet (FlexE) interface. In a statement, Viavi Solutions explained China Mobile selected this technology combination for 5G transport and is petitioning the ITU to standardise SPN as part of a goal to launch commercial services by end-2019.

Viavi Solutions said it will deliver an SPN test platform to lay a common foundation for network equipment vendors, chip developers and transceiver manufacturers to validate products based on the technology. Oleg Khaykin, Viavi Solutions president and CEO, said “principal technologies including SPN for transport must be standardised by the ITU-T” in order for China Mobile’s launch date to be met.

Pushed forward
The announcement by Viavi Solutions places China Mobile’s 5G launch plan more in line with other leading global players. US-based operators AT&T and Verizon aim to offer 5G services in some markets by the end of the year or early 2019, while mobile operators in South Korea have announced intentions to deploy commercial 5G networks in 2019.

Six months ago China Mobile CEO Shang Bing said it was planning large-scale pre-commercial trials in 2019 and commercial rollouts in 2020.

Viavi Solutions stated extensive analysis of 5G transport network requirements resulted in China Mobile determining SPN is an optimal technology to deliver next-generation architecture, bandwidth, traffic models, network slicing, latency and time synchronisation. The company added FlexE is used in conjunction with SPN to create smaller Ethernet channels from a larger one, or vice versa, to guarantee quality of service and isolation between slices at the transport layer.

The global mobile industry is now set to move ahead with full-scale deployment of the next-generation technology after the first formal 5G New Radio (NR) standard was approved in December 2017. The 3GPP’s highly anticipated 5G NR specifications for non-standalone (NSA) operation features in Release 15 and covers both fixed and mobile applications.