The kick off for the arrival of 5G in Latin America was given. In the next 18 months, at least five countries in the region are expected to launch their first 5G networks. And the world’s largest auction will be the Brazilian one, scheduled to happen in the end of 2020, according to the Brazilian telecoms regulator Anatel. And carriers operating in the country are rushing to test all the usage potential of the technology, in partnership with the manufacturers, in addition to the best way to exploit it commercially.
The tests have been carried out on different fronts, and with the more interested manufacturers in providing the necessary infrastructure for the implementation of 5G in the country (and, of course, in Latin America): Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei.
While undergoing restructuring in Latin America, Telefonica continues to have a profitable operation in Brazil. According to Vivo’s network planning director, Atila Branco, the Brazilian 5G network will be an evolution of everything the company has been doing on 4G and 4.5G networks.
“Vivo is anticipating and investing heavily in network virtualization, analytics and artificial intelligence tools to obtain the maximum potential of the 5G network. But the launch of the network depends on the unfolding of the 5G public consultation and, later, on the actions derived from this debate, ” he told LABS.
He says that a major transformation will be needed at the heart of the network and in customer service systems. At Vivo, the entire central part of the network will be supported by IP technology and the functions of the equipment will be transformed into software, in the process known as “virtualization”, which facilitates the administration of the network and the provision of services.
“In the laboratory we have already simulated a network based entirely on software, although in a real operating scenario the complexity increases. This virtualization process is a necessity for 5G which is based on cloud computing”, explains Branco. According to him, the new technology will allow networks to be segregated to offer different services (network slicing, in industry jargon) and customer service will be closer to them, aiming at reducing response time.
TIM made three pilots in what the company calls a “living network”–or operation network–, in the city of Florianópolis with Fundação Certi / UFSC and Huawei; in the city Santa Rita do Sapucaí with Inatel and Ericsson; and in the city Campina Grande with Nokia and Instituto Virtus / UFCG.
Marco Di Costanzo, engineering director at TIM Brazil, says that the idea is to foster an ecosystem of developers of 5G solutions.
“The moment we have spectrum, all of this preparation will be used to leverage a faster go to market. But after the auction, it will be necessary to clean up the spectrum. We believe that the first commercial use cases will occur at the end of 2021”, assess Di Costanzo.
The company is using the experience of Telecom Italia, which launched the 5G network commercially in Turin in June 2019, and already has four other cities covered on the 3.5GHz frequency.
In preparation, TIM has already launched 25 data centers, 14 for core network applications and 11 for bringing content closer to the user with the so-called edge computing architecture. In 2020, 10 more datacenters, 8 edge and two core will be installed. “These data centers are the base to run virtualized applications. Our goal is to reach 70% of the virtualized network, but there are functions that are not worth virtualizing,” explains Di Costanzo.
Regardless of the eventual sale of its mobile operation, Oi has also been preparing its network for 5G. The company has already closed contracts with Huawei and Nokia for the evolution of networks from 2G to 5G, but André Ituassu, engineering director at Oi, points out that nothing prevents new competitions. One of the company’s strategies is to position itself as a major infrastructure provider for other operators.
According to him, for the 5G to work there is no point in having an antenna if it does not have a structure behind it. It is on top of Oi’s fiber capillarity, the largest in the country, is that the company is improving its electronic structure, expanding the capacity of the optical backbone (OTN), modernizing the core and the IP access network and the metropolitan network to support all the demand that will come from 5G.
Claro has been preparing its network for the arrival of 5G for some time. Although he did not say exactly what stage the company is in, Luiz Fernando Bourdot, director of technological innovation at Claro, said that there is a strategic plan for network virtualization in synergy with all operations in América Móvil.
“Being innovative is in the DNA of Claro. No wonder, it was the first to implement technologies such as 4G and 4.5G. For 5G, Claro has been preparing itself and, in fact, has already carried out many tests”, he told LABS.
According to Bourdot, in 2016 Claro was a pioneer in bringing the first 5G base station to Brazil, at 28 GHz band, reaching approximately 4.2 Gbps. The following year, the operator tested various uses of the technology, in different bands. In 2018, the operator managed to make the first transmission in 8k with 5G technology.
And last year, with a temporary use license from Anatel and Ericsson technology, Claro managed to make an unprecedented demonstration of holography at the Allianz Parque stadium. In the presentation, the musician Lucas Lima appeared on stage in front of thousands of people. From Claro’s headquarters, about 17km away from the stadium, he interacted with the conductor and played Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog on the violin.