Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Glenn Lurie touched on the 5G spectrum issue

Interview: AT&T on spectrum and 5G

So, Glenn Lurie of AT&T, let's talk about the future.

There's a lot of hype, we're in a 4G era at the moment, but obviously there's a lot hype around 5G. What's AT&T's take on 5G? And I'm asking that really because AT&T hasn't publicly said an awful lot about 5G at the moment, some of your competitors have.

Give us a little bit of an insight into your thinking around 5G?

Let me start with this, you said the right thing, 4G is really good, right? And what I want to make sure we don't do as an industry is start talking about something that's four, five years away. 5G is going to be very important in the industry, but today with 4G LTE there isn't anything you can't do. It's a very, very big pipe, it's got low latency, the speeds are phenomenal and really you can do anything you want. The key to 5G and the reason we've been, I wouldn't say quiet, is that the standards aren't done.

3GPP is still working with all the carriers around the world, you've got a lot of PR happening and I think we have got to be careful with just PR. 5G will be spectacular all right, it will have some new elements to it, will it be faster or lower latency, we'll see. It will have a layer for IOT. One of the things that's exciting about that is when you think about IoT and putting a sensor on a light in a smart city, I want that sensor to have a battery life of 10 years. Well today we don't have that, but we believe, it's not done yet, that that could be an element to 5G; a low power, low latency kind of a situation and layer inside of those standards. So for us, we don't want to get too far out in front of our headlights, right.

5G will be great and important but today we have a phenomenal network, especially in the US, we spend billions of dollars on it, and it works wonderfully and I think we should focus there. Yes the US has been a market leader in 4G.

Absolutely.

But Glenn there have been reports recently that maybe the US is falling a bit behind the rest of the world in the move to 5G. Are you concerned by that at all? I think those reports came from guys who do what you do everyday which are folks in the media, and reality is, yes there's a lot of PR coming out of Asia and other places.

Look we're not concerned about that, we're in the middle of it, the US is right in the middle of it, we were very influential in what came out in standards for 4G LTE and we'll be very influential on what happens in 5G.

Finally Glenn, just wanted to touch on a hugely important topic in the US industry, and that is spectrum.

Obviously we can never have enough spectrum, but your thoughts on how AT&T can help lobby to help get more spectrum. I understand there's a big incentive auction for example next March, is that something that AT&T is going to play a big role in?

I think spectrum is the lifeblood of this industry. The usage continues to go up, right, you saw the stats flying around, it's incredible and the good thing is that people want more, that's terrific for the industry. But we have to have spectrum to be able to do that.

We've already participated in prior spectrum auctions, we've said we will participate in the one coming, but the reality is we need a long-term plan, a long-term plan with the FCC.

Obviously working with CTIA they've been very involved in helping build that plan. We really need to put in place spectrum going way out and I think you're hearing more and more that the government gets it, they want to do that, the current FCC is positioning it that way, but this is something that's not going to stop, it's going to be a journey.

Because as we wirelessly enable everything, which we're going to do and we're doing today, we're going to continually have to re-evaluate what our spectrum portfolios do, we're going to have to evaluate the technology to make the best use of it, and have it be most efficient, but without question you said it very well, we're going to need more.

Glenn thanks so much for your thoughts. Thank you. My pleasure, thank you. Glenn Lurie tells Mobile World Live why any concern around a slow move to 5G by the US operator – and indeed the country in general – is unnecessary. And he argues the US needs to come up with a “long term plan for spectrum”, with demand set to continue to rise as more devices become connected.