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Q&A with Phil Sorsky, VP of international service providers at CommScope, who discusses the advances of 5G

What’s the status of 5G in the UK now?

We’re currently entering a cautious, early adoption phase of next-generation wireless technology. A small number of users will receive first taste of 5G in specific geographic locations, via specific applications, none of which are ubiquitous or optimised for cost [just yet].

Primarily, the technology will mostly focus on enhancing mobile broadband, which is about delivering enough bandwidth to users so that, when demand for bandwidth accelerates, they can enjoy the same level of service as with 4G.

While this is rightly creating optimism in the market, there is limited radio frequency (RF) infrastructure – including base station antenna sites – available for the 3.5GHz spectrum. These bands underpin 5G, and such macro-cell upgrades and outdoor small-cell deployments will be critical for operators, many of which are already network-capacity stretched.

What must operators do to make 5G happen?

Setting up 5G is about new spectrum, most of which are higher frequency signals that don’t penetrate walls very well. So, when thinking about users inside spaces such as buildings, enterprise areas, airports and underground train stations, we’ll start to see purpose-built systems that will bring that bandwidth.

However, 5G will enable service providers to keep up with the intense subscriber demand for more wireless bandwidth by adding capacity to their networks. Technologically, achieving 5G performance requires providers to eliminate network bottlenecks by adding more small cells, fibre and mobile edge computing to their networks. The industry has been most successful when using fibre to achieve its goals.

Are there any examples of 5G investments to date?

Italy is certainly making strides with 5G. Of course, millions of tourists flock to Italy’s historical landmarks and venues every day, which creates unique challenges for network operators in keeping people connected, highly reliably.

To address this, businesses across the country are investing in new, digital infrastructures, giving users first-class, in-building wireless experience. INWIT, Italy’s largest provider of neutral host services, is collaborating with CommScope to deliver superior mobile voice and data services today, with readiness for 5G.

What’s next for wireless connectivity?

When it comes to connecting devices to the network, wireless has clearly won the battle; now we need to see how far 5G can take that. As fixed wireless-access penetrates residential markets, and open interfaces in 5G networks promise to make new vertical markets more accessible, the possibilities are endless.

This year we will see the first glimpses of 5G, which will be a clear discussion point during 2019. What follows [in wireless connectivity] will be more, better and faster, and the future of 5G continues to shine brightly ahead.

What about CommScope’s involvement with 5G?

We made a few key announcements, including a collaboration with Nokia, to develop passive-active antenna solutions for optimal tower space usage, increased cell site capacity and laying out the groundwork for a 5G-ready future.

We also announced a new suite of 3.5GHz antennas for macro- and small cells to help increase network capacity and migration to 5G. Customers using newly licensed spectrum bands will be able to increase capacity in existing LTE networks and prepare for future 5G networks with these new antennas.

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