Blink and you may have missed it.  Something big happened this week. At an unassuming hotel ballroom in La Jolla, California, 3GPP, the international wireless standards body, converged on the first set of 5G standards known as Release 15.

This means that device makers, hardware providers, network infrastructure vendors, and wireless carriers now have the first definition of 5G in hand. In other words, the industry can build mobile 5G networks and devices around common standards. Further enhancements to the 5G specifications will primarily be in software, which we can update at internet speed.

Some aspects of Release 15 were agreed upon in late December as a result of agreement to accelerate some of the specifications to get a head start on chipset design. This week’s meetings finalized the first set of 5G specs supporting enhanced mobile broadband.

With this standards milestone in place, we’re moving full steam ahead as planned to launch standards-compliant mobile 5G in parts of a dozen cities later this year, including Dallas, Atlanta, and Waco.  We’re also hard at work showing the promise of 5G with a number of demonstrations at events across the country.

Software + 5G = A Perfect Match  

We realized back in 2013 when we kicked off our transition to software-defined networking (SDN) that the future 5G world would be all about software. And we didn’t want to keep that to ourselves.

The SDN orchestration platform we created and released into open source as ONAP is now being incorporated into the 5G standards and will help the industry deploy and manage 5G virtualized networks and services.

To help 5G reach its full potential, we also led and contributed to groups like xRAN that advocate for open source software tools and virtualization standards to effectively deploy and manage wireless networks. We’ll continue to drive the global architecture for open, modular, software-driven intelligent networks as we expand xRAN into ORAN to accelerate the transformation of the wireless network.

Software is vital for managing the complexity and flexibility of 5G’s various technologies, including virtualization and network slicing. We’ll be able to adjust quickly and efficiently on the fly thanks to software. That will result in a network that is faster and more responsive for people around the globe.

I’ve said 5G will be the first network to be born in the cloud.  Software already powers our network, delivers videos, music, games and more to our customers, and is a toolbox for developers around the world to create new applications we can’t even imagine yet.  

By finalizing the first definition of 5G with a software-based management system at its core, the world has a winning combination.

Andre Fuetsch is president of AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer

Andre Fuetsch
Andre Fuetsch President – AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer