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Ericsson: First 5G phones will be available in early 2019

Wednesday, February 15th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The mass deployment of 5G mobile services is only two years away, according to senior figures at Ericsson.

Arun Bansal, head of business unit network products at the company, said the first phones using 5G – the next generation of mobile network – are likely to be available in early 2019.

“Operators will soon be taking 5G out from their labs and trials to some initial commercial deployment and then in early 2018 we are still talking about limited deployment,” he said.

“There will be a lot of progress this year with mass deployment likely in 2019.”

He said Ericsson will be displaying be a 5G phone, albeit one so big it needs to be wheeled around, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month.

But he added: “The first available 5G phone, we are talking early 2019 when you and I will be able to buy one.”

Mr Bansal was speaking as Ericsson launched a new 5G platform to help operators prepare for the new technology.

Ericsson said the rapid move towards data-heavy applications like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality shows the need for a new generation of network, adding that its platform includes support systems and security as well as the technical components that operators need.

“With this launch, we introduce our 5G platform to support the beginning of a huge change in network capabilities, allowing our customers to offer more advanced use cases to their customers,” said Mr Bansal.

“It is an important milestone enabling operators to continue their evolution journey to 5G.”

'Phenomenal service'

Mr Bansal said operators will have to find new business models as 5G opens up new revenue streams such as industry.

“Autonomous cars, for example, will need the kind of [low] latency that 5G offers,” he said.

Thomas Noren, senior advisor on business unit network products at Ericsson, said consumers can expect “much greater capacity” from 5G networks compared to 4G.

“More of the time, you’ll have access to really phenomenal service. And then there will be applications when you’ll need the much greater speeds and the shorter latencies that come with 5G.”

He also said it will be important for regulators to allocate spectrum – the airwaves used to deliver mobile services – quickly to enable growth.

Ofcom is set to auction spectrum in the 3.4 GHz band, which is expected to play an important role in the rollout of 5G services, this year.

Currently, the regulator has no plans to cap the amount any one provider can buy despite calls by mobile operator Three for a limit of 30% on total spectrum ownership.

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