News Feature | August 20, 2019

The Week in 5G: 8/20/2019 — Three's 5G Broadband Live in the UK, Huawei 5G Phone On Sale in China, Qualcomm Heads To Russia

By Ed Biller


In the United Kingdom, mobile carrier Three launched its 5G network in London on Monday. However, the network is not yet available to mobile phone customers. CNET reports that Three’s 5G network “is based around home broadband provision, using fibre-like, ultrafast speeds to provide an alternative to traditional broadband services.”

Still, Three’s network launch has a cloud hanging over it: BT-owned EE allegedly complained to the UK Advertising Standards Authority over an ad campaign for Three’s network that claims, “If it’s not Three, it’s not real 5G.” The Authority now will investigate whether the claim is represents misleading advertising, reports The Guardian.

Three joins rivals EE and Vodafone in the UK’s 5G marketplace, and a fourth competitor, O2, announced in July that its 5G network is scheduled for an October launch. Three based the claim in its advertising on the fact that it holds a 100MHz block of contiguous spectrum in the 3.4-3.6GHz band, “twice what Vodafone has (50Mhz) and more than double what EE has at 40Mhz. That last figure is the same as O2,” reports Forbes.

Meanwhile, in Greece, the US-China technology cold war has not impacted Huawei’s business. The Chinese carrier recently tested two pilot 5G pilot networks in Athens and Kalamata; the latter pilot was conducted in partnership with provider Wind Hellas.

ZDNet reports that Greece’s first commercial use of 5G is expected to begin within two years. “Huawei has been investing in Greece for almost 15 years and commands a 50% percent share of the telecoms equipment market,” the article states.

Even in the U.S., appetite for the Huawei ban has slackened, with the U.S. Commerce Department on Monday extending a narrow list of products and services exempt from the ban. The exemption, set to expire Monday (Aug. 19), has been extended another 90 days “to give smaller U.S. internet and wireless companies that rely on Huawei more time to transition away from reliance on its products,” reported AP News.

In technology news, Huawei’s Mate 20 X 5G went on sale in China last week; 5G networks in that nation’s largest cities are expected to come online later this year, and across the country by 2020. Despite the lack of currently active 6G networks, “Huawei wants to get ahead of its competition,” reports CNBC. “Apple has yet to release a 5G phone, and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10+ 5G is not on sale in China yet.”

Further, an unsubstantiated report by Chinese media indicates that Huawei will buy Taiwan-based MediaTek’s recently announced 5G SoC chip, “which will apparently power a low-cost Huawei 5G smartphone potentially out in early 2020,” reports Digital Trends.

“MediaTek’s 5G SoC combines ARM’s Cortex A77 CPU with MediaTek’s A70 modem, and is designed to bring 5G to phones that cost less than flagship 5G devices,” the report states. In addition to more digestible price tags, Huawei’s use of MediaTek’s 5G SoC also helps the telecom to avoid the US’ current Entity List ban, which prohibits US businesses from selling to Huawei.

Qualcomm announced last week that it will follow Huawei into Russia; the chipmaker intends to test and deploy 5G in Moscow this fall.

However, testing will not be done in the 3.5 GHz band; Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly has ordered that the 3.4-3.8 GHz band be reserved for military and intelligence uses, rather than 5G, reports Light Reading. The article adds that Russia's Communications Ministry has proposed using the 4.4 GHz-4.99 GHz range for mid-band 5G instead.

Also last week, looked at the list of 5G-capable devices already on the market – a number that has passed the 100-product threshold.

“Looking at the list, 26 smartphones have been identified, nine of which are now commercially available, while eight hotspots (three commercially available) have been clocked and 26 CPE devices (eight commercially available),” writes Jamie Davies. “Outside of the devices mentioned above, 28 modules are ready, two snap-on dongles, two routers, two IOT routers, two drones, one laptop, one switch, one USB terminal and one robot.”

Still, with network rollouts in their infancy, 5G devices are not yet hot sellers in the U.S. Per a Light Reading report – informed by BayStreet Research -- US wireless network operators had sold a mere 29,000 5G devices by the end of the Q2 2019.