Real-World Performance of 5G (2019)

By Dave Morley, Shaw Communications Inc./Freedom Mobile

5G is progressing rapidly from technical trials to initial commercial deployments. As of August 2019, thirty nine mobile network operators around the globe had already launched commercial standardized 5G networks, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint in the U.S. While these initial deployments are important milestones in the development of 5G, most deployments in North America are still very limited in scope and scale. For example, Verizon’s initial 28 GHz 5G deployment in late 2018 was based on a pre-3GPP 5G standard known as 5GTF and supported fixed wireless access only. Verizon has since launched mobile 5G based on the 3GPP standard and currently offers service in just four cities: Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver and Providence, R.I. AT&T was the first U.S. operator to offer mobile 5G in late 2018 and has since expanded to 20 cities. Unlike Verizon, AT&T is using 39 GHz spectrum in all its launch cities. T-Mobile and Sprint have also recently launched 5G in a handful of cities. Sprint is using 2.5 GHz mid-band spectrum, while T-Mobile is using a combination of 39 GHz and 28 GHz.

5G device availability has also been a limiting factor for initial 5G deployments. Most operators only have a few devices that support 5G. For example, T-Mobile only recently demonstrated 5G at 600 MHz because first generation 5G modems did not support the 600 MHz band. Although 5G standards, devices, and commercial networks are maturing quickly, further development and trials are required to fully realize 5G’s potential.

This paper presents the results of pre-commercial 5G field trials conducted by Freedom Mobile and its strategic network partner, Nokia. Freedom Mobile is a wholly owned subsidiary of Shaw Communications Inc. and currently Canada’s fourth-largest mobile network operator. The precommercial trials were carried out at Freedom Mobile’s production cell sites in Calgary, Canada on two 5G frequency bands: 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz. These field trials were completed over a 3-month period from June to August 2019.

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