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Several telecom groups in Latin America are increasingly positioning themselves in the 5G mobile technology area despite the fact that commercial rollouts of this technology could be several years away.
An example of this trend could be seen Monday when Mexico's America Móvil, through its Brazilian subsidiary Claro, held the first live trial with the technology at the Futurecom ICT conference in São Paulo, Brazil.
Speeds of nearly 5 gigabits per second were attained during the test, with latency levels of less than 1 miliseconds, compared to 15-25 miliseconds in 4G LTE networks.
Claro's Futurecom test used radio base stations, antennas and receivers provided by Swedish telecom equipment supplier Ericsson. Brazilian telecom regulator Anatel had also issued a special permit for Claro to use spectrum in the 15MHz band limited to the area of the event - since the frequency is currently occupied in Brazil by point-to-multipoint radio communication services.
The Brazil 5G trial had been expected since the visit of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to Ericsson's headquarters in Sweden, one year ago.
"Taking the tests out of the labs and bring them to field networks, as we are doing at Futurecom, is an important part of the process that will have commercial networks ready by 2020," said Ericsson Brasil VP Eduardo Ricotta.
According to André Sarcinelli, engineering director at América Móvil Brasil, the demo helps the industry evaluate the real-life performance of the technology from a transmission and latency standpoint.
But Sarcinelli recognizes the standardization challenge. Current discussions in the US and Europe are for the use of frequencies ranging between the 15GHz to the 34 GHz bands, but common standards are only expected to be set in the next two years.
The whole ecosystem - networks, terminals, routers and other elements - needs to extensively evolve before 5G makes sense economically, by reducing equipment prices for all, and become a reality commercially, he noted.
That being said, América Móvil remains upbeat on 5G. Speaking during a panel at the GSMA Mobile 360 conference in Mexico City last month, CEO Daniel Hajj said America Móvil could launch 5G during 2018-19.
But to what extent does América Móvil's test indicate that local carries are readying themselves for 5G – and that the service will soon be readily available to Latin American customers?
"There is a lot of hype about trials and demos involving 5G, but the reality is that they don't add and they don't mean much, because the technology still has not been standardized in global forums," Dimitri Diliani, the Latin America head of Finnish multinational Nokia, told reporters at Futurecom.
"We are not doing trials in Latin America, which does not mean we are behind on 5G. On the contrary, we are actually ahead on 5G," Diliani noted.