5G networks are expected to start coming on line en masse next year and there is a lot to be done in the meantime. Later this year the first big standards-compliant 5G network trials are expected to roll out, but near term the components for the phones need to enter compliance testing so that the resulting components are ready to manufacture next year.
5G Ready Program
This week Qualcomm announced their 5G Test Ready Program—one of the largest in the firm’s history—as they ramp up to the challenge. One of the reasons this is so large is because the range of WAN-connected hardware has massively increased since the roll out of the 4G networks. Where it once was mostly phones, since 4G we’ve seen the emergence of always -onnected PCs, connected VR head mounted displays, and an increasing host of connected IoT devices like the ARLO GO (interesting WAN-based security camera that you can place literally anyplace) the shear variety and number of WAN connected devices has nearly gone vertical.
This test program was built on the foundation of the 2009 program they rolled out for 4G and is open to all Qualcomm partners (though Apple may have issues getting in).
The components of the program consist of:
- Training sessions and workshops: These cover the features of 5G from the physical layer on up to the upper layer implementations and include an overview of the 5G features.
- Mobile Test Platform: They will use form-factor test platforms so that operators and infrastructure vendors can come up to speed. Access to these test platforms gives these folks some of the most critical information they need to roll out their own devices and services. This effort should allow the market to roll out these 5G networks and services far more quickly.
- Knowledge Sharing: Connected to Qualcomm’s Test Center Network (TCN) is the firm’s traditional knowledge sharing program. Pretty much everything Qualcomm knows about 5G is available to partners to set up additional trial and testing programs. This information often flows both ways enabling the ecosystem to boot strap itself into the new technology as quickly as possible.
- Certification: Certification is critical to ensuring all parties, including users, end up with equipment that will actually work. This is a lesson that has been hard learned over the years but particularly with the early roll outs of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that lacked programs like this and had extremely painful and lengthy roll outs. Certification assures devices are ready and it is a big factor in ensuring quality. To qualify partners must demonstrate competence with 5G tools by attending exclusive 5G training. In addition, they must have the necessary test equipment and show competence in both using that equipment and meeting operational and industry test requirements. If certified, they will be allowed to use the 5G ready logo that buyers can then use to assure the devices they buy work.
As noted above, because this ecosystem now will include a wide variety of devices, this program isn’t just for phones but for any device that will make use of the coming 5G network.
Wrapping Up: 5G Is Almost Here
With less than a year to go until 5G is expected to enter one of the fastest and most massive technology roll outs in history Qualcomm is setting a comprehensive foundation. Their efforts to assure their partners are ready and avoid the problems associated with early wireless roll outs—which frustrated both users and carriers—demonstrates how the mass of experience Qualcomm has is being positioned to make 5G painless. From creating test products, to assuring all the critical parties are not only ready with hardware, but with skills and compliant services, the expectation is that (other than having to again buy new hardware) that this will be both the most complex and easiest roll out yet. The complexity largely comes from the mass of new devices that will roll out with 5G. I’m personally looking forward to the new 5G always connected PCs.
We’ll revisit this often, but—for now—it still looks like full speed ahead to 2019 and the roll out of the next generation of wireless technology.